The body of George Morishima was recovered yesterday from the forests of upper Nuuanu.

Volunteer finds
body of lost
elderly hiker

The discovery ends the massive
search for George Morishima

By Leila Fujimori

The body of a 78-year-old Aiea man, missing since last Sunday, was discovered yesterday in a dry stream bed by one of about 100 volunteers and family members searching for him in the forests of Nuuanu.

The body of George Morishima was discovered shortly after 11 a.m. yesterday about three-quarters of a mile from the road behind a gray house at 4151 Nuuanu Pali Drive.

"It would have been worse if they never found his body," said Morishima's sister, Norma Fujise. "At least now we can have a funeral."

"Everybody had hope until the end," she said.

Morishima left home last Sunday afternoon to pick forest delicacies of tree fungus, bamboo and fern shoots for the family's New Year's Day dinner.

His family discovered his car at the Judd Trailhead. A massive air and ground search was launched by police and fire crews.

Officials and officers at the scene said that it did not appear Morishima had fallen because he was not near the base of a cliff, said Phil Camero, investigator with the Honolulu Police Department's Missing Persons Detail.

Camero said an autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death.

He may have been hurt, fallen and become disoriented, son Gary Morishima said.

"He was so close to coming back," said Morishima's brother, Edward. "I think he knew the place so well he thought he could come back in a shorter time."

Leslie Tam, a 62-year-old archery hunter who knows the area well, said another man who was part of his four-man search team found the body. But the young man was so shaken that he left immediately, Tam said.

Morishima's body was face up, shirtless and bent backward over a tree, with head hanging down and feet up, Tam said.

He said it appeared Morishima had been dead for several days.

Tam speculated that Morishima had come down the steep side of the narrow valley, evidenced by broken branches.

"We found his car keys and loose change 20 feet away," Tam said. "He must have come down a steep slope," probably at night.

Tam recommended not to travel at night, when it's pitch black in the mountains. "Your best bet is stay where you are."

Fire rescuers had searched the entire ridgeline of the Judd Memorial Trail to the Tantalus Trail, from the Nuuanu side to the Pauoa side of the mountain, said fire Capt. Kenison Tejada.

After word of the body's discovery spread, some family members and volunteers continued their search, remaining hopeful that the body was not Morishima's.

Fire rescue specialists hiked into the area and the body was taken by fire helicopter to a site near the Nuuanu pumping station, where the family positively identified it at about 1:30 p.m.

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