Tuesday, August 24, 1999

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Danish visitors Marianne Konnerup, left, and Anitta
Winther believe they've been given a second chance
at life with their rescue Sunday.

Hikers feared
8th day was last
chance at rescue

The Danish women and their
families thank Hawaii people for
their concern and aloha spirit

By Heather Tang


Marianne Konnerup and Anitta Winther knew it was Sunday or never.

Lost deep in Windward Oahu's Kahana Valley on a 2,265-foot peak, the Danish visitors were weak and suffering from eight days of hunger, thirst and sunburn. They attempted to go down the cliff Sunday morning.

"We knew we couldn't keep going on like this for much longer, we didn't have the strength. It was getting colder and colder," said Konnerup. "Then Saturday, we decided if we were going to have a chance, we would have to try to get down on our own. We knew we were so high up, people didn't expect to see us."

It was a good thing they did.

Three local hikers heard their cries for help and rescued the two women at Puuohulehule. They were found in good condition, with no major injuries.

The 20-year-old Danish women and their families thanked the public and their rescuers, members of the Hawaii Trail and Mountain Club, at a news conference yesterday in Hawaii Kai.

Surviving eight days alone in a rugged valley where hikers have vanished, the two women survived on two apples, two bagels and berries and sucked on moss for water.

Joking, crying and talking every day and relying on each other kept them hopeful.

"We talked about our families, what we wanted to do when we came back. What we wanted to do with our lives," said Konnerup.

Trapped on a steep ledge that shaded them from the sun's rays, the girls were also hidden from view of the search-and-rescue helicopters.

"It was so frustrating, we couldn't do anything; we tried everything to get the helicopters to see us. We tried screaming, signaling them with Anitta's camera flash -- everything. Nothing worked," said Konnerup.

The search operation with fire, police and Department of Land and Natural Resources officers cost about $100,000. The search began Aug. 14 in Waimea Valley, and officers worked normal shifts during the operation.

"If they didn't come down then, they probably would not have been found," said a rescue official.

Veteran hikers Jim Pushaw, Thomas Yoza and Ken Suzuki weren't expecting to find the girls -- dead or alive.

"It was a shot in the dark, we were looking for dead bodies at that point," said Yoza.

"We didn't really expect them to be up on the ridge. This is one of the most dangerous hikes, there's no way a novice hiker could complete that," said Suzuki.

"The temperature drops to the low 50s at night, the wind constantly blows, the risk for hypothermia and starvation are real high," said Yoza.

"When we set out that morning, we were told to prepare for the worst. We might find them -- the wrong way. But along the way, something flashed in my mind that we'd find them alive," Pushaw said.

Calling out as they walked narrow paths of the valley, they heard Konnerup and Winther saying "help, help." The men quickened their pace and walked toward the voices, finding the women 100 feet below the Puuohulehule ridge peak.

The families thanked Hawaii people yesterday for their concern and generosity. "I don't think people in Denmark would have been as concerned about missing people. It's different here, you have the aloha spirit," said Konnerup, who plans to continue her sight-seeing in the islands.

Hotels have provided free lodging for the families, while local attractions have donated tickets. "Only in Hawaii can people come together like this," said a spokesperson for the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii.

Konnerup and Winther rested yesterday, and planned to meet with Mayor Jeremy Harris today, said Kirsten Melcher, the girls' host mother in Hawaii. Following the rest of their vacation in Hawaii, the girls will continue their round-the-world trip next month with stops in Australia and Thailand, said Melcher.

"They're not planning on leaving Hawaii anytime soon. They're just going to relax now," she said.

"This gave us strength for life, we came out of this experience different. I thought I had problems before, but now I know that I don't," said Konnerup.

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