Volunteers keep up
hiker search

A fire crew rejoins the effort briefly
after footprints are found

By Leila Fujimori

Although fire crews and police have suspended their search, the family of George Morishima plans to continue today to scour the Nuuanu forest where the 78-year-old Aiea man was last seen Sunday.

"Spirits are high," said son Gary Morishima. "I thought some of the family might be discouraged because it's been almost a week."

Two Navy SEALs volunteered to hold a 7:30 a.m. briefing on Nuuanu Pali Road for volunteers today so a more organized search can be conducted, George's sister Norma Fujise said. They will pass out maps to avoid searchers covering the same area, she said.

Yesterday, 45 volunteers and 15 family members joined the search.

Fire officials discontinued their search for Morishima Thursday afternoon. But after the Hawaiian Trail & Mountain Club discovered footprints later that evening, a fire rescue team made a ground search off the Judd Trail yesterday. After more than an hour of searching, the team called off the search again.

Fire Battalion Chief Paul Gerard told the family yesterday that the Fire Department will reactivate its search if evidence of Morishima is found.

"The Fire Department didn't quit," he said, "we're just at a dead end. But we're still able to activate."

Morishima left home 2 p.m. Sunday to collect delicacies for the family's New Year's Day dinner. Bamboo shoots are found at the edge of the forest; tree fungus for "nishime," a Japanese New Year dish, in the middle; and fern shoots at the top, said Gary Morishima.

George Morishima, who is hard of hearing and has some short-term memory loss, has been on the trail at least six times a year for the past 20 years, Gary said.

Family members said they are grateful to the many friends, co-workers and strangers who have stopped to offer help, but are concerned for the safety of the inexperienced.

The family also praised the fire and police search efforts, but understood it had to be called off due to protocol. The Fire Department went beyond the usual three-day search period by two days.

"The Fire Department did a really great job," Fujise said. "Sometimes you don't realize what they do unless you're involved. They went into areas where people don't normally go, rappelling with ropes."

Members of HFD's Rescue 2 company rappelled 60 feet down a dry waterfall during the search. They said they found it difficult to stop searching, knowing witnesses said they had seen Morishima on the ridgeline Sunday.

"We searched that area to the best of our ability, all the high-probability areas. We know he's still up there," said acting Capt. Myles Okada. "Maybe he's just wandering.

"We've found guys five days later," citing the rescue of an injured teen who fell off the Pali.

Rescue 2 firefighter Michael Chun added: "Knowing that you did your best, you kind of feel let down, a failure, but we just don't know where he is.

"You can see it in (the family's) faces; they know we have to go, but they want us to stay," he said. "It's difficult to actually leave."

Fire Department

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