Three generation of Morishimas searched for lost hiker George Morishima yesterday. From left, George's brother Edward, grandson Edward Morishima III and son Edward Morishima Jr. stood at the trail head to Judd Trail in Nuuanu.

Search for hiker,
78, called off again

Footprints spur officials
to resume the search briefly
but it is a fruitless effort

Star-Bulletin staff

Fire officials, hoping that a newly discovered set of footprints could lead to missing hiker George Morishima, reinstated their search this morning for the 78-year-old Aiea man.

But their hope was short-lived. Officials called off the search mission after a team of five rescuers searched off Judd Trail and failed to find any signs of Morishima.

Fire officials had called off their search at 2 p.m. yesterday but reinstated the search this morning after someone spotted a set of footprints last night, Battalion Chief Paul Gerard said.

"We wanted to come in here one more time to give the family one last effort," Gerard said.

The footprints were discovered in an area where firefighters had been dropped off a helicopter for an earlier search, Gerard said.

Although the footprints could belong to a firefighter or another hiker, firefighters were going to give it "one last try," Gerard said. But the latest evidence could not be linked to Morishima, who has been missing since Sunday while on a trip to pick bamboo and tree fungus in upper Nuuanu.

Firefighters, who began searching about 8:30 a.m. today, called off the search about 10 a.m. Gerard said he informed Morishima's family that the search was suspended but it would resume if substantial evidence is found.

Fire officials also were planning to deploy Air One, a helicopter equipped with an infrared device that can detect body heat and therefore spot people on the ground. But the helicopter was not deployed today because the pilot was called to Mokuleia for another search this morning.

Morishima's family and hikers from the Hawaiian Mountain and Trail Club plan to continue their search today.

George's niece Cheryl Morishima-Silva searched for signs of her uncle through one of the many bamboo thickets along the trail system.

Firefighters began searching for Morishima on Sunday night after he failed to return home. State personnel, Morishima's family and other hikers joined the search but have been unsuccessful in finding him.

Yesterday Edward Morishima held back tears as he wondered where his older brother could be.

"I don't know what happened," said Morishima of his brother, George. "He's familiar with the trails."

Yesterday three fire rescue specialists rappelled from 1,700 feet above Nuuanu Pali Drive in their search, officials said.

"We're pleased that they tried their best," Edward Morishima said yesterday. "The whole family really appreciates it."

Morishima was last seen leaving his home about 2 p.m. Sunday. About 6:30 p.m., Morishima's son found his father's car at the beginning of Judd Trail at 4161 Nuuanu Pali Drive.

Family members said Morishima is known to frequent Judd Trail for bamboo shoots, bamboo leaves and pepeiao (tree fungus).

Two days ago, Morishima's mesh bag was found in a bamboo forest. The bag was far from where he was last seen on Judd Trail by two hikers Sunday, said Detective Phil Camero of the police department's missing-persons detail.

Family members said Morishima had suffered from a mild stroke and has experienced short-term memory loss over the past year.

Police and officials from the state Department of Land & Natural Resources also assisted firefighters in the search for Morishima. Camero said a helicopter with an infrared device that detects body heat was used in the search.

"We all hope that he is still alive," said Morishima's youngest sister, Norma Fujise. "We are not quite ready to accept that he's gone."

A family friend placed a spiritual offering of incense and ti leaves to appease spirits and serve as a beacon for Morishima to find his way.

Fujise added that Morishima's sons have been searching feverishly for their father since Sunday night.

Edward Morishima said his brother is active in sports such as diving, fishing and softball. Edward said he and his brother were on a senior softball team.

George Morishima, a retired carpenter, was born in Olowalu Camp on Maui.

A family friend placed incense and ti leaves near the beginning of Judd Trail, where Morishima's car was located.

"It is an offering to all the spirits in the valley and to show George where to come out and help him find his way," he said.

Rosemarie Bernardo and Nelson Daranciang contributed to this report.

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