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Tuesday, January 7, 2003



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FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Honolulu Fire Department personnel carried hiker Albert Lowe yesterday from an Army helicopter to an ambulance in Waianae. Lowe fell down a slope Sunday on Kamaileunu Ridge. Rescuers managed to contact him via his cell phone. He is in guarded condition at the Queen's Medical Center.




Hiker survives
steep plunge
and broken bones

Albert Lowe spends the night
unconscious on a Waianae ridge


By Nelson Daranciang
ndaranciang@starbulletin.com

Albert Lowe is doing OK, considering he fell 200-250 feet down a steep slope in Waianae on Sunday and spent the night wedged against a tree, probably unconscious with broken bones, his son Raphael says.

A U.S. Army helicopter plucked Lowe off a ridge in Waianae yesterday after fellow hiking club members contacted him by cellular telephone. He had suffered a broken right elbow and broken bones in his neck. Lowe's son said the spinal cord was not damaged. Lowe is in guarded condition at Queen's Medical Center.

Raphael Lowe said Lowe was still dazed and did not remember what happened. His family and rescuers believe Lowe may have spent Sunday night on the ridge unconscious.

When rescuers first made contact with Lowe by cellular telephone about 8:45 a.m. yesterday, "the first thing he said was, 'What happened," said officer Phil Camero, Honolulu Police Department Missing Persons Detail.

"I was so happy he answered the phone," said Mabel Kekina, Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club trail maintenance chairwoman and the first person to talk to Lowe. "He sounded really dazed but the more I talked to him, he became more coherent."

Rescuers spotted Lowe about 3,000 feet up the ridge about 11 a.m. and were able to lift him out by 1 p.m. When rescuers got to him, Lowe could not move and was visibly injured.

"He had a lot of blood on his chest, blood coming from his nose, his ears," said Dean Stowell, Honolulu Fire Department rescue specialist, "He was kinda going in and out. He knew we were there to help him, so I think that was comforting but he was shaking, he was really cold."

Lowe was in a spot not visible from the trail and had the tree not broken his fall, he would have gone all the way down, Stowell said.

Lowe, 58, of Punchbowl, had been a member of the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club for about a year and had gone on a members-only hike Sunday morning on the Kamaileunu Ridge separating Makaha and Waianae.

This was his first hike on the ridge with the club. When Lowe failed to return home, his family started calling his cellular telephone about 8 p.m. Sunday.

"The phone would ring but he didn't answer," Raphael Lowe said.

The family also called hiking club leaders. About 11 p.m., they called police. A patrol officer was dispatched to the trail head off Farrington Highway across Waianae High School about midnight and found Lowe's car, Camero said. Police and firefighters launched a search the following morning and focused on a spot he was seen descending by another hiker about 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

On Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club hikes, members and guests are not kept together so they can hike at their own pace, leave early or take detours onto side trails, said John Hall, a club hike coordinator.

However, the hike coordinator is responsible for making sure everyone gets back, said Kekina.

Hall and Kekina were not on Sunday's hike.

"I think what may have happened is, some members forget to sign in or they show up late," so the coordinator would not know the member is still on the trail, Kekina said.

"In all my years hiking with the club, this is the first time this had happened," she said.

Kekina said a few years ago a hike coordinator started a search after a hiker failed to exit the trail.

The hiker had gone off the trail, exited at a different location and caught the bus to the beach. He realized people were searching for him when he returned home.

Kamaileunu Ridge is one of the most difficult hikes on the island because the trail has no tree cover, has loose footing and is very hot, Kekina said.

The seven-mile hike goes from sea level to the 3,210-foot summit of Puu Kamaileunu.

"It's a lot of loose rocks and small cliffs you gotta scramble up," Hall said,

"There are places where you can fall. You really gotta watch your step."



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