Hawaii residents remember lives lost during Sacred Falls accident 15 years ago

It was a sunny mother’s day 15 years ago when tragedy struck families spending the day at Sacred Falls in Punaluu.

A massive rock slide took eight lives and injured dozens more.

The scene seems so tranquil now – what used to be the parking lot at Sacred Falls has given way to grass. A Department of Land and Natural Resources officer patrols the gated area, making sure no one hikes up the trail.

15 years after the tragic incident, many people still come to Sacred Falls Park thinking they can hike up to the falls – tourists, military, students, even locals. But the DLNR officer told us, that’s not going to happen.

“The professionals all agree Sacred Falls area has a higher potential for further rockfalls in that area and that’s why the state has placed it essentially off limits.” DLNR Director Bill Aila said.

The professionals aren’t the only ones who agree that danger still lurks at Sacred Falls.

“So good thing they still have it closed off, then. Yeah, it’s a lot safer for people I guess.” Punaluu Resident Kawika Hee said.

Still, Kawika says, in spite of the posted danger, visitors still make their way up the trail

“Yeah, they still come up all the time. They just go up, most of the time they still get caught and maybe they won’t come up again, but they go through this back way over here.” Hee said.

Some of those that are trying to sneak in are military members. Aila says he is not just concerned about their safety, but their military careers.

“Their DOD high security clearance at risk just for getting a citation. So we especially urge our military personnel NOT to trespass up there.” Aila said.

Those of us who were here 15 years ago cannot forget the images on that Mother’s Day – that includes DLNR director Bill Aila who witnessed many lives change that day.

“That’s all the more reason why no one else should go there – because I hate to see those changes to other families lifestyles.” Aila said.

There is nothing in the foreseeable future that will allow the state to re-open Sacred Falls because of the unstable geology there.

“That’s correct and it will remain that way for a long time which is why we have no plans to open it back up again.” Aila said.

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