Wednesday, May 19, 1999

Maakua Gulch
hikers face jail, fine

'To me, Maakua Gulch is more
dangerous than Sacred Falls'

Jonathan Wong


Three visitors and two
Hauula men ignored signs saying
to stay out of the area
near Sacred Falls

By Rod Ohira


Criminal charges are pending against five men who violated a state order to stay out of Hauula's Maakua Gulch.

Zach Billings of Arizona, one of three brothers in the party of five who hiked to the gulch Monday, suffered a knee injury and had to be transported out yesterday by a Honolulu Fire Department helicopter.

Billings, 30, is in stable condition at Wahiawa Hospital.

"Criminal citations were issued to five adult males, and we're looking at petty misdemeanor charges for entering into a closed area," said Gary Moniz, acting enforcement chief for the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

If convicted of the petty misdemeanor, the five could be sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $500, said Moniz.

A sign is posted at the entrance to the hiking trail advising the public that Maakua Gulch is closed due to dangerous conditions.

Maakua Gulch is located about a mile from Sacred Falls State Park, where eight people were killed and more than 30 injured by a landslide May 9.

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Honolulu Fire Department Rescue One member Courtney Seto
said the terrain was rough on the Maakua Gulch trail. Without
carrying any gear, he and fellow Rescue One member Alan Nitta
needed 45 minutes to get out on foot. He said if they had to
carry the injured hiker out, "We'd be talking to you tomorrow."

"To me, Maakua Gulch is more dangerous than Sacred Falls," said Hauula firefighter Jonathan Wong, one of the first six rescuers to arrive at the Sacred Falls landslide. "It's closed. We asked them to do it after Sacred Falls."

Billings and his two brothers, who are vacationing in Hawaii, had planned to go to Sacred Falls before the landslide closed the park, said Jenny Wunder, whose husband knows members of the group.

Instead, the brothers decided to spend the last day of their vacation at Maakua Gulch with two friends from Hauula, Wunder added.

At about 1 a.m. yesterday, Brigham Young University-Hawaii student Toshi Nakagawa of Fukuoka, Japan, received a call from his friend Raymond Wunder, Jenny's husband.

"Raymond said he wasn't sure what happened but that someone was injured in the mountain and we had to do a rescue," Nakagawa said. "He said he needed more people, so I called by friend Yu (Ohki)."

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
A military helicopter yesterday carries the injured man from
the steep Maakua Gulch. The five hikers who went in
Monday on the closed trail now face criminal charges.

Nakagawa said he had food and a flashlight with him when Raymond Wunder picked him and Ohki up and took them to the 7-Eleven Store in Hauula, where they met two of the hikers who had gone up with Billings.

"We hiked in with a stretcher but realized it wouldn't work (to carry Billings out) because it was too muddy and slippery," Nakagawa said. "It was dark, too. We only had the flashlights."

Nakagawa said he, Ohki and Wunder eventually turned back and called 911.

"They should have called for help right away," Moniz said.

Moniz added the five who hiked up Monday admitted to enforcement officers that they saw the posted sign but ignored it.

"We're asking for voluntary compliance," Moniz said. "But when people enter areas posted closed, they're subjecting rescuers to dangers if they have to go in for them.

"Rescues are costly, and taxpayers' money is paying for it. Plus, these types of rescues are tying up personnel that could be helping elsewhere. Those hikers should have never been there."

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin