Friday, September 27, 2002

State of Hawaii

Liability may
shut down popular
Manoa Falls trail

By Diana Leone and Alan Vaughn |

The popular Manoa Falls hiking trail may have to be closed until the state Legislature passes a law that better protects the state from liability, Gov. Ben Cayetano said yesterday.

Cayetano was answering reporters' questions about what will happen now, since a judge ruled Tuesday that the state is liable for eight deaths and dozens of injuries caused by the Mother's Day rockslide at Sacred Falls State Park in 1999.

"Sacred Falls is a very, very serious case," and "the burden that the court put on the state is very, very high," Cayetano said at the Exporter of the Year Awards.

Circuit Judge Dexter Del Rosario ruled that the state knew about previous rockfalls that caused injuries and a death at Sacred Falls, but failed to adequately warn visitors of the severity of the rockfall hazards, particularly in the waterfall area.

The state might close some parks due to the ruling, and the Manoa Falls trail, which was closed three months this year after a rockslide, is one that is under consideration for closing, Cayetano said.

The Department of Land & Natural Resources, which oversees state parks, trails and unimproved land, also is looking at other areas that might be in danger of a rockslide, he said.

While predicting that in the short term other parks may close, Cayetano also said Sacred Falls may eventually reopen to the public. The Windward park has been closed since the May 9, 1999, rockslide that killed four women, three men and a 7-year-old girl.

In a lawsuit filed by families of the four of the eight people killed, Judge Del Rosario ruled that the state "was required to use all reasonable care to protect visitors to the waterfall area of Sacred Falls park from the rockfall hazard."

The judge's ruling came after the trial ended nearly nine months earlier.

A separate trial to determine damages is set for January and is expected to last a few months.

Asked about the state's response yesterday, Cayetano said, "I think we need to take some steps to determine what the risk is."

On the other hand, he added, "We cannot do a geological study on every cliff we have in the state."

State of Hawaii

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