Star-Bulletin Sports

Friday, March 23, 2001

P R E P _ S P O R T S

Kahuku wrestler Jake Kamakaala, right, and Mike Kubey,
T.J. Evans and Darrell Tachibana (front to back) became
heroes at Kahana Valley State Park.

Hero on the
mat and off

State wrestling champion
Jake Kamakaala from Kahuku and
five of his friends rescued a group
of lost hikers in Kahana Valley

By Jason Kaneshiro

JAKE KAMAKAALA created a stir around Kahuku High School March 3 by winning a state wrestling championship. But the Red Raider senior and his buddies had already gained fame around the North Shore campus with their heroics a couple of weeks earlier.

PREP EXTRA Kamakaala, who captured the state title in the boys' 135-pound weight class at the Data House State Wrestling Championships, and five buddies helped rescue a woman and three children from the depths of Kahana Valley State Park on President's Day.

Kamakaala, Mike Kubey, Darrell Tachibana, Bryan Boran, T.J. Evans and his father Thoran Evans ventured into the valley at dusk that Monday and emerged early Tuesday morning, stranded hikers in tow.

It's not uncommon for hikers to lose their bearings in the valley, bringing rescue crews to the doorstep of the Kamakaala home, located just down the street from the main trail head. But the ages of those in distress this time prompted the group to action.

"Usually we wouldn't go looking for hikers like that," Kamakaala said.

"But they said there were little kids."

Kamakaala, a straight-A student, and Kubey are seniors at Kahuku, while Boran graduated last year. Tachibana, a junior, is a defensive end on the school's state champion football team.

Like Kamakaala, T.J., 14, and Thoran Evans live within the park's boundaries, where two women, two 7-year-old girls and a 3-year-old boy started their hiking trip around noon.

One of the women got separated from the group, but found her way out. When the others didn't emerge from the forest, she called the fire department for help.

Upon learning of their plight, Kamakaala dropped his yard work, gathered his friends and headed out at about 6 p.m.

The volunteer search party split from the fire fighters to cover more ground, using knowledge of the park's trails to navigate through the maze of fern-lined paths made slick by steady windward showers.

They learned the twists and turns of the valley as kids during weekend expeditions hunting the wild boars inhabiting the brush. They also occasionally clear the park's trails as a community service.

"These guys know the trails real good and (the firefighters) never really knew the trails," Kamakaala said.

The group had been searching for almost three hours and had ventured far off the main trail when they finally heard a response to their calls.

The woman and the children were stuck on the banks of the swiftly rising Kahana Stream. Once they drew a bead on the location of the hikers, close to 9 p.m., the searchers opted for the most direct route.

"We just ducked through all the bushes and swam across the river," Kubey said.

The river would not be so accommodating for long, as showers turned into a downpour.

"It was raining before, but right when we found them it started to pour and the river opened up," Kamakaala said.

BACK AT THE TRAIL HEAD, Kamakaala's mother, Lisa, comforted the mother whose children were lost in the forest. But with little communication with the search party, her anxiety rose as quickly as the river's waters.

"Later in the evening it got pretty scary," she said, "because it was dark and rainy."

The searchers reunited with the firefighters after finding the hikers, and together they started a circuitous search for the main trail.

"I saw the same tree three times," Kubey said.

They eventually found their way back to a dam in the river, but their path had been cut off by the raging waters. The detour forced them to follow the winding trail all the way around the park.

"When we went out, our flashlights had new batteries," Kamakaala said. "By the time we came out, the batteries died and we just had to go by moonlight."

Finally, at about 1 a.m., the entire group emerged safely and the young heroes were rewarded with hot cocoa and a day off from school.

"My dad said that was a good deed and don't do it too often," Kubey recalled.

And it wasn't until the next morning that Lisa Kamakaala discovered how perilous the situation had been.

"I didn't know until after how dangerous that river gets," she said. "I was able to go up there and it was just unbelievable.

"It could have been really disastrous," she added. "If any of those kids had gotten too close to the river they would have been swept away."

JAKE KAMAKAALA recovered his strength in time to win the Oahu Interscholastic Association East championship that weekend and the OIA title the next.

He capped his eventful month at the Blaisdell Arena by beating Ross Isokure of Punahou, 3-1, to win the state championship in the 135-pound weight class.

And while Kamakaala found glory on the mat that night, he and his friends can take satisfaction in knowing they found something far more precious in the middle of a dark, cold and wet forest.

"Watching him win the state title, I was more excited for him because I knew how hard he worked for it," Lisa Kamakaala said.

"But it was also nice to see the boys doing something to help someone else."

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