121 hikers airlifted from Hanakapi’ai
Several hikers were stranded at Hanakapi’ai on Sunday, April 6, 2014 when stream waters swelled up making it unsafe to cross. The Kauai Fire Department was notified of the issue around 4:00 pm on Sunday and were able to rescue 23 of the stranded hikers on Sunday evening, along with the remaining 98 on Monday morning. They were able to rescue up to 4 hikers at a time with each flight of Air 1, their rescue helicopter, making a total of 25 trips. 2 of the fire rescuers stayed with the 98 hikers overnight.
Those rescued included an 12-year old boy and a 18-month-old baby. Zach Greenburg (12) from Salt Lake City, Utah was caught in the water and swept downstream. He managed to get back onto solid ground on the opposite side of the stream where he was stranded on a rock for over 4 hours until rescuers were able to get to him.
Rich Greenberg, Zach’s Father explained his son’s experience, “He slipped and let go of his sister’s hand so he didn’t pull her in and I tried to grab his hand and I slipped and so my daughter, who was in the backpack with me, got swept in the river with me and Zach got swept in the river in really high force rapids and we went over a couple of little drops and seemed like forever. I got out of the river and took my daughter off my back with the backpack and ran down to see if he was okay because I knew he had passed me, panicking and got there to find him across the river and safe, only by the grace of God.”
Deputy Fire Chief John Blalock of the Kauai Fire Department said, “I got the stories from our rescuers, about rescuing that 12-year-old boy who got swept down and he is very, very fortunate to be here.”
He continued, “When possible, firefighters will hike in to the valley to assist stranded hikers in crossing the river safely, so that they can hike out if they are able, but in this case, hazardous conditions made it impossible to get anyone across. To avoid serious injury or death, we urged everyone to shelter in place until they could be flown back to the trail head. We are very pleased to report that everyone made it back safely.
Blalock added that this rescue was probably one of the largest rescues of its type.