Wednesday, May 12, 1999


By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
The family of Sarah Johnson arrived today at Sacred Falls
State Park, where they were greeted by Hauula firefighters
and state officials. The family wanted to walk the trail
and see the spot where their daughter is believed to have died.

Eighth victim
found at Sacred Falls

The only person reported missing
is a California woman whose
parents arrived in the isles today

By Gregg K. Kakesako
and Jaymes K. Song
Star Bulletin


A body was found buried in the rubble today near the pool at Sacred Falls State Park, according to Fire Capt. Richard Soo.

That brings the confirmed death toll to 8 from Sunday's landslide.

Officials did not identify the body, but the only person reported missing thus far is Sarah Johnson, 24, of Hayward, Calif.

The discovery came as Johnson's parents and other family members hiked toward the falls with escorts from the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

They were turned away short of the body, which had been moved to the trail, about 200 yards from the falls.

The body was taken by helicopter to the trail entrance, away from the Johnson family, for identification by police. Meanwhile, the family returned to the park entrance, where they waited for word from officials.

Johnson, a United Airline airframe mechanic, was sitting at the pool beneath the 80-foot falls when the rocks and boulders fell from above.

Safety concerns had hampered recovery operations.

Five members of the Johnson family had asked to view the place where their daughter was believed to have died. They arrived at the tourist attraction's parking lot, located about three miles from the accident site, at 9:40 a.m.

Firefighters from Hauula lined up and hugged and kissed each family member, some of them in tears.

Johnson had been an airframe mechanic with United Airlines for the past 2-1/2 years.

The family was escorted into the valley by state DLNR Director Tim Johns, who oversees the operations of Sacred Falls State Park.

Prior to today's discovery, the Hawaii Army National Guard was asked to determine if it can move the boulders and rubble at Sacred Falls as well as lower the water table at the pool.

The Navy was asked by the Honolulu Police Department to provide divers to search the pool beneath the 80-foot falls should further searches be deemed necessary.

Gary Moniz, acting chief of law enforcement for the Department of Land and Natural Resources, said authorities would try to retrieve Johnson's body as soon as possible.

The first option would be to have Navy divers search the 20-foot pool at the base of the falls. If her body is not there, crews would have to bring in heavy equipment to move boulders as large as 500 pounds each, he said.

Capt. Charles Anthony, Hawaii National Guard spokesman, said the guard was asked to see if it had the engineering equipment to move rocks and boulders.

Anthony said he didn't know how the earth-moving equipment would be transferred into the narrow gorge.

"It's the size of a cab of a Mack truck," Anthony said.

Deborah Ward, spokesman for the Department of Land and Natural Resources, said pumps also are being considered to lower the level of the pool if divers cannot find Johnson's body.

She said geologists visited the valley today to determine whether it was safe to send recovery teams into the area.

"We want to expedite the recovery of the body, but we also are worried about the safety of the recovery workers," Ward said. "the physical characteristics of the valley pose severe obstacles."

The Hauula tourist attraction, which averages 55,000 visitors annually, has been closed since the landslide.

Victim update line

Bullet Mainland and Neighbor Islands: 1-800-898-2353.
Bullet On Oahu: 523-4122.

E-mail to City Desk

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