Monday, May 10, 1999

A pool is nestled at the bottom of the 87-foot falls.
It is large enough for swimming and visitors often
jump or dive off the low ledge. Large rocks surround
the base of the pool where visitors sunbathe.

Falls draws
thousands yearly

By Jaymes K. Song


Every year, thousands of hikers are lured to the beauty of Sacred Falls State Park, which is tucked away in the valleys of the Koolau Mountain Range.

They brave a rocky, 2.2-mile, twisting hike through a banana field, lush forest and unpredictable stream that leads to the end of the valley, where they are rewarded with the sight of a tropical waterfall that plunges 87 feet into a deep, serene pool.

The large rocks surrounding the pool are a popular spot for hikers to sit and admire the roaring falls, take pictures, eat or rest before heading back down the trail.

Hawaiian legend says the pool at the base of the falls is bottomless and leads to another world where a demon lives, according to trail experts. The area is also believed to be the home of Kamapuaa, who could turn himself into a giant hog.

The trail, nestled in a sleepy area between Hauula and Punaluu, is frequented by many locals, tourists and military personnel daily.

The hike is rated the "best hike on Oahu" and "a must do" by several travel guides.

People are mesmerized by the beauty of the falls and the towering valleys and often ignore the dangers that have claimed the lives of several people in the past 30 years.

Yesterday, at least six people were killed and 33 people were injured in the area surrounding the falls when boulders and rocks fell from the top of the valley's steep walls.

Cascading rocks are nothing new for the park, named "kaliuwaa falls" in Hawaiian. There have been four incidents of rock slides or falling rocks at the park causing injury or death since 1970.

Bullet On May 1, 1993, a 22-year-old airman from Hickam Air Force Base was injured when a rock hit him on the head about 150 feet from the falls.
Bullet On Oct. 28, 1991, a man and two women were injured when rocks fell on their head and back. Police said rocks fell because they became loose after heavy rains.
Bullet In January 1982, a girl, 4, was killed when she was hit on the head by a falling rock at the pool.
Bullet On May 24, 1970, 30 hikers were trapped under an avalanche. A survivor told the Star-Bulletin "the air was filled with rocks." One man was seriously injured and two women suffered minor injuries.

A dangerous history

Sacred Falls has spelled danger to a number of people over the years. Here's a look at the incidents that have occurred since 1970.

Bullet September 1997: A 20-year-old man was rescued after he spent four days at the park after taking a wrong trail and ending up in an area he couldn't get out of.
Bullet July 1996: A Navy man was rescued and hospitalized after he fell on a muddy portion of a trail and hit his back on a rock.
Bullet April 1996: Two men were swept downstream and three others were stranded in a flash flood.
Bullet August 1995: A 21-year-old woman was injured when she slipped and suffered a sprain.
Bullet August 1995: A 39-year-old woman broke her arm after falling on a rock.
Bullet July 1995: A Navy man who was snorkeling was found dead in the pool. He suffered a head injury, possibly from slipping on a rock.
Bullet July 1995: A rescue helicopter crashed during a search for a missing hiker. The crashed killed the pilot and two police officers.
Bullet May 1993: A 22-year-old Hickam Army Airfield soldier was injured when he was hit on the head by a rock falling from the cliffs about 150 feet from the falls.
Bullet October 1993: Four Boy Scouts were rescued after they were swept away in a flash flood.
Bullet October 1991: A rock slide injured a man and two women. The rocks were loosened by heavy rains and hit the hikers in the head and back.
Bullet September 1988: Two men were hospitalized for two weeks after going swimming at the park. They contracted the bacterial disease leptospirosis.
Bullet August 1987: A 62-year-old Honolulu man was swept away in a flash flood. His body was never recovered.
Bullet March 1987: A 22-year-old Kailua woman and her 2-year-old son were killed after being swept away in a flash flood. Thirty others were rescued.
Bullet March 1987: Two Hauula men, 23 and 43, drowned in a pool at the base of the falls.
Bullet July 1982: Eleven people, several of them children, were rescued after being trapped by a flash flood.
Bullet June 1982: A 25-year-old Navy man died after falling from the cliffs above the park.
Bullet January 1982: A 4-year-old girl was killed when she was hit on the head by a falling rock at the pool. Her stepfather suffered cuts and a broken collarbone.
Bullet June 1980: A woman was injured when she slipped trying to escape rising waters.
Bullet August 1973: Twenty people trapped by a flash flood were rescued.
Bullet January 1972: A 22-year-old woman and a 9-year-old girl were killed and several others were injured in a flash flood.
Bullet May 1970: Thirty people were trapped under a small rock slide. One man suffered serious injuries.

NOTE: Numerous people also have become lost in the area and required rescue over the years.

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