Stranded Hikers on Oahu could be billed for emergency services

By Jeremy Lee

    KAILUA, Hawaii (KITV) -- As hikers approach the Olomana Trail, a new sign warns visitors that six people have fallen to their deaths, all but one between the second and third peak.

The sign then lists each fatal fall, the most recent occurring last November.

KITV 4 caught up with hikers Anthony and Ryan. The two out-of-towners reunited on their hike after parting ways briefly at the second peak.

"I looked at the drop, and then the climb up to the third," Ryan recalled, "I don't trust the shoes that I have, I turned around and came back. And he kept going on."

Having the right footwear makes a huge difference, Anthony testified showing off the treads on the soles of his shoes.

Experienced hikers say, it is crucial to avoid a costly situation. Yet, it's not just the potential cost of life, the cost of a rescue operation also looms large.

Should SB-786 pass, state lawmakers would pass that cost onto the imperiled hiker.

The Honolulu Police Department opposes the initiative. HPD testified on Wednesday that it is not set up for billing those rescued, in terms of calculating or accepting payment.

When it comes to unsanctioned hikes on Oahu, tourists and locals alike can be found bypassing signs and finding not so hidden trails. There is a mixed response to the bill. It could send a message to those who might show up unprepared, but experienced hikers also say there is a downside.

"They don't want people to not call for help. Because they can make the situation worse. Instead of doing a rescue, they're going to be doing a recovery if people don't want to call for help and people don't want to pay that bill," Lena Haapala cautioned.

We caught up with several other hikers at the foot of the Olomana trail. They reiterated the importance of preparation.

"Do your research. talk to people who have done the hike. Look at reviews. I don't think I would have done this, if I didn't come with a friend who had done this before," Deanna from Washington DC said.

And that goes even for the most experienced hikers.

"You know, it doesn't matter who you are. You can make one wrong slip and anything can happen," Lena Haapala told KITV4.

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