Should trespassing hikers be charged for rescue?

A hiker was rescued from Sacred Falls State Park on March 19, 2014.

Sacred Falls State Park has been off-limits for nearly 15 years. There are signs that clearly state the park is closed, so should hikers who get stranded there be held responsible for paying the rescue bill?

One of the four young hikers admits he knew it was off-limits, but went anyway, with one of the men eventually splitting off from the group.

“All night long, we were just looking for him, and then finally the sun rose this morning and we found him right along the cliff,” said hiker Kaleo Martin.

The Honolulu Fire Dept. had to be called in with its rescue helicopter. The operation can get costly.

“That’s two companies, plus a incident manager, plus a helicopter, an average rate would approximate, close to a thousand dollars an hour for that group of responders,” said Capt. Terry Seelig of the Honolulu Fire Dept.

Capt. Seelig says it is possible for HFD to try and recoup those costs, but it could come at a price. “We don’t want to put up a barrier that prevents people from doing the best thing for their situation, in a rescue call for help the minute you realize you are in over your head,” he said.

Capt. Seelig says it’s not uncommon for people to voice concern when they’re rescued. “They didn’t call right away because they were worried about being charged, and thought, ‘Well, I’ll just suck it up and try my best to avoid that penalty,'” he said.

The stranded hiker and his friend were both cited by the Department of Land and Natural Resources on a petty misdemeanor that could carry as much as a $2,500 fine.

A court date for the hikers has been set for May 29.

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