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Saturday, September 23, 2000

A few clues,
police diligence
save injured hiker

The Montana man had left
only a rental car with a note
on a hiking book title

By Jaymes K. Song

George Wilke might have never been able to return to his Montana home if it weren't for three Honolulu police officers.

Wilke, 35, went hiking alone above Kahana Valley at about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday and got stranded in the Koolau Mountains after he fell into a hole and severely injured his leg.

An extensive search was launched after Kaneohe patrol officer Troy Kamekona saw Wilke's rental car parked along Kamehameha Highway near Kahana Valley State Park on Thursday morning and again that night.

Kamekona made checks on the car and traced it to Wilke, who had not returned to his Waikiki hotel room since Wednesday.Officers Donald Vickery and John Palimoo helped track Wilke to the Pu'u Manamana trail after a piece of paper was found in the car. It had "The Hikers Guide to Oahu by Stuart Ball" written on it.

Kaaawa firefighters heard Wilke's calls for help yesterday and relayed his approximate location by radio.

"That's how we found him," said Fire Rescue Capt. Ray Lum.

Wilke was located at 1:30 p.m. yesterday about 1,000 feet high on a ridge above Kahana Valley. He was airlifted from the mountain range -- hungry, bruised and battered, severely dehydrated, but in good spirits, rescuers said. He was taken to Castle Medical Center where he remains in stable condition.

"If not for (the officers') keen senses, Mr. George Wilke would have most definitely perished shortly," said Sgt. Wallace Choy of the missing persons detail.

Missing Persons officer Phillip Camero said Wilke tumbled 200 feet about three hours into his hike. He attempted to hike again, but fell into the hole, injuring his leg.

Wilke, described as an avid hunter and hiker in Montana, survived by drinking his one-liter bottle of water and consuming sap off the trees.

According to Ball's guide, the trail is a 4-mile loop which rises 2,100 feet on loose, crumbly rocks.

"Pu'u Manamana is one one of the most dangerous hikes on the island," the book reads.

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