Mabel Kekina, chairwoman of a hiking club, looked over records of searches she has been involved in.

Hiker’s wandering
complicated rescue

George Morishima apparently
was on the move during
the search for him

Hiking essentials

By Rosemarie Bernardo

A hiking club official says she was upset when she discovered that the body of George Morishima was found in an area in Nuuanu previously searched by hikers.

"We could've found him when he was still alive," said Mabel Kekina, chairwoman of the Hawaiian Mountain and Trail Club's Trail Maintenance. Club members had volunteered in the search for Morishima.

Kekina said Morishima was found in a ravine that was already searched by three hikers from the Hawaiian Mountain and Trail Club.

"Even if somebody has gone there before, check it again," Kekina said.

Morishima, 78, of Aiea, was found in a dry stream bed about 11 a.m. Saturday by a search volunteer. He had been missing since Dec. 29 after going to Nuuanu to gather bamboo shoots and fern roots.

Dr. Kanthi von Guenthner, of the city Department of the Medical Examiner, said Morishima died of a broken neck from a fall last Thursday. Morishima died 36 to 40 hours before he was found, von Guenthner said.

Detective Phil Camero, of the Honolulu Police Department's Missing Persons Detail, said Morishima had suffered a fractured rib before he fell.

A police helicopter with an infrared device used to detect body heat was unable to find Morishima during the search because of the density of the forest, he said.

Camero said he did not want to speculate as to what may have happened to Morishima.

"Anything is possible," he said.

Kekina speculated Morishima was trailblazing through an area off Judd Trail with his machete. As he was coming down a trail hikers call Rose Apple Trail, Kekina said, he probably fell and fractured his rib. He was wearing the wrong type of footwear for hiking, she said.

At some point, Morishima no longer had his machete, Kekina said, because there was evidence he had pulled out a lot of plants to make a bedding to rest on and cover himself with.

Later, Kekina speculated, Morishima attempted to go down a 30-foot dirt embankment when he lost his footing and grabbed onto a tree branch. But the branch broke off, causing Morishima to tumble down the embankment and break his neck, she said.

His car keys and some loose change were located about 20 feet from his body.

Kekina, who has been involved in 10 searches for missing hikers in Hawaii, said Morishima was believed to have been wandering through the forest while firefighters, police, forestry officials, relatives and volunteers searched for him.

"All those days we were searching for him, we couldn't find him because he was on the move," Kekina said. "He was a very strong man."

She suspects that his earlier injury and lack of food slowed Morishima down.

Morishima's son Arnold said a couple of psychics assisted in the search.

During the search, one of the psychics mentioned Morishima was about 500 yards from where his mesh bag was found. Another said he was about 100 yards from a man-made object, Kekina said. "Both of them were correct," she said. The mesh bag was found about 100 yards from two piles of stones stacked about 3 1/2 feet high.

After Morishima's body was removed Saturday, Kekina and other hikers returned to the site to assess the area to determine what they could do if another hiker is reported missing there.

Kekina said she plans to return to Nuuanu Valley one day to help locate Morishima's machete to determine what direction he was heading.

Morishima was described as an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed diving and fishing.

A retired carpenter, he went up to Nuuanu several times a year to gather bamboo shoots and fern roots, Arnold Morishima said.

Morishima is survived by wife Patricia; sons Arnold, Greg, Gary and Guy; daughter Annette Lum; brothers Edward and Richard; sisters Jane Kusuno and Norma Fujise; and seven grandchildren.

Services will he held 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the Nuuanu Mortuary's East Chapel. The family requests no flowers. A private inurnment will be held at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.


Essentials for hiking safety

Take these items with you on a hike to help assure your safety:

>> A whistle
>> A space blanket
>> Boots
>> A first-aid kit
>> Two liters of water
>> A day or waist pack
>> A brightly colored article that can be waved to attract rescuers' attention
>> Other equipment such as a cellular phone, flashlight, rain gear, signal mirror, nylon cord, knife, sunscreen, mosquito repellent and food

Source: City & County of Honolulu

E-mail to City Desk


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