State, visitors bureau mull solutions after massive rescue on Kauai

Kauai’s Kalalau Trail reopened Tuesday, one day day after an exhaustive rescue that involved firefighters flying 121 hikers out of an area near Hanakapiai stream over a two-day period. Fast-flowing water made the stream impassable at about 4 p.m. Sunday.

All were flown out at a substantial cost. The best estimate from those experienced in the use of rescue helicopters is around $1,000 per hour.

According to authorities, many of the stranded hikers were visitors and may not have been aware of the potential hazard of fast-rising waters.

Sue Kanoho, executive director of Kauai Visitors Bureau, says more can be done to keep visitors safe, and one place to start is with the owners of vacation rentals.

“Each property is supposed to have an on-island manager and it would be helpful that they provide this information in their units so that they can say, ‘Try these resources before you go out and make sure you’re checking the water conditions,’” Kanoho said.

Kanoho says education will make visitors aware of potential dangers in paradise.

Meanwhile, the Dept. of Land and Natural Resources has posted signs on both sides of the stream, warning hikers not to cross when the water level is high.

Last year, a hiker drowned trying to cross the stream.

Director William Aila says building bridges over the stream makes sense.

“What makes it very difficult to construct and design for is this is in a very remote area,” he said. “We’re in the process of doing this. It will probably be done, but in a time frame that reflects how difficult it is to build things in wilderness areas.”

Aila says a project like bridge construction would take two to three years.

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