Man Survives 200-Foot Fall Down Cliff

In January of 2003, a 58-year-old man strayed off a trail and fell 200 feet down the side of a cliff in the Wai‘anae Mountains. Though he suffered neck and back injuries, the man was able to use his cell phone to call for help. He spent the night in the mountains and was rescued the following morning.[i]

Student Pilot Crashes on Moloka‘i

On January 25, 2003, a 17-year-old student pilot crashed a single-engine plane into a Moloka‘i mountain. The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the cause of the crash involved the pilot’s error in descending to 1,000 feet when he should have stayed above 3,500 feet.

The crash occurred during the high school senior’s his first solo interisland flight. Rescuers found the burned wreckage of the plane two days after the crash.[ii]

Flash Flood Sweeps Away Man and Daughter

On April 10, 2003, a 39-year-old man and his eight-year-old daughter were crossing over a stream in Kipahulu about one-half mile above Hāna Highway in Haleakalā National Park on the Pīpīwai Trail, when the young girl slipped and fell. The father helped her up as they suddenly heard a loud noise—it was a 6-foot-high surge of water was roaring down the stream.

A sudden rush of debris-filled water swept them to their death over the 184-foot high Makahiku Falls. The area of the incident was extensively searched, but the bodies were not found.

To date, no one has ever survived a descent from the hazardous precipice of the waterfall. The stream had caused numerous deaths in the previous several years.[iii]

About 30 minutes before the tragedy occurred, a flash flood warning had been issued by Hawai‘i Civil Defense, though people on the trail were likely unaware the warning had been issued.

Marlin Spears Whale Researcher

On April 15, 2003, a prominent whale researcher was filming a pod of more than 50 false killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens) attacking a marlin, a fast-swimming, carnivorous fish (Hawaiian name: a‘u), about 3 miles off Maui’s western coast.

Suddenly the marlin, estimated to be about 12˝ feet long, turned and attacked the man, spearing him through his right shoulder, quickly extracting itself, and leaving him severely wounded and bleeding profusely. He was taken to Maui Memorial Medical Center where he was treated for the extreme puncture wound.[iv]

Shark Bites Swimmer’s Leg

On May 10, 2003, on Hawai‘i Island a man was swimming near Kahalu‘u Beach when an estimated 6-foot-long, gray-colored shark bit into his left foot, ankle, and calf.

Load Line Causes Helicopter Crash

On May 22, 2003, a commercial helicopter crashed on Kaho‘olawe when a 41-foot load line attached to the helicopter struck the tail rotor. The pilot had just delivered a 3000-pound load from Maui, and took off with the line still hanging from the helicopter (not standard procedure).

The line became entangled in the tail rotor, separating it from the craft and causing the crash.[v]

Four Rescued from Sea Cave

On May 26, 2003, two men and two women took their small inflatable boat into a sea cave along Kaua‘i’s rugged Nāpali coastline. Suddenly the adventurous boaters found themselves trapped in the cave by waves pounding against the rocks. The boat washed up onto the rocks as the waves continued to crash into the cave’s entrance.

Lifeguards soon arrived, and timed their efforts with the arriving swells as they raced into the cave and rescued one person at a time. The rescuers lost hold of the jet ski and recovered it, and one wave almost smashed them against the top of the entrance to the cave.

A veteran County lifeguard called the operation “...the heaviest rescue I’ve ever been involved in.”[vi]

Leaping Eel Bites Woman

On June 1, 2003, a visitor from Washington State was bitten on the hand by a 4˝-foot peppered moray eel that leaped about 2˝ feet from a saltwater pool at Mauna Lani Hotel. The woman had seen the eel beneath the water in the pool, and had stopped to point out the eel to her niece and nephew.

After the initial bite, the woman shook her hand, hitting the eel against a handrail, but it bit another part of her hand before finally letting go. The woman’s hand required two surgeries and some damage was permanent. She filed a lawsuit against the hotel for harboring “..a dangerous animal species.”[vii]

Helicopter Crashes at Volcanoes National Park Killing Four

On the morning of June 15, 2003, a Hughes 500 helicopter on a sightseeing flight out of Hilo crashed on Hawai‘i Island in Volcanoes National Park and was engulfed in flames. The pilot and three passengers, including a 13-year-old girl, died in the crash, which occurred about two miles inland from the ocean, and two miles from Chain of Craters Road.

The pilot had radioed in a mayday call at 9:49 a.m., saying that he had experienced an engine failure 31 minutes into the tour. The crash site, a cliff called Pūlama Pali, was threatened by approaching lava flows (which came within 50 feet), and so the wreckage had to be quickly airlifted away from the lava field.[viii]

Jellyfish Invade O‘ahu Beaches

On June 23, 2003, box jellyfish stung hundreds of swimmers and beachgoers along O‘ahu’s southern shores, where an estimated 2,700 jellyfish washed up on the beaches.

Lifeguards treated at least 330 individuals for stings. Two people suffered severe allergic reactions to the stings, and had to go to a hospital for additional treatment. The following day, June 24, about 100 people were treated for stings and about 500 jellyfish washed ashore.[ix]

Dolphins Flee as Shark Bites Man’s Foot

On June 24, 2003 offshore of O‘ahu’s Mākua Beach a man was swimming with a pod of about 45 spinner dolphins when the dolphins suddenly and rapidly left the area. Just then the man was bitten in the foot by shark. The shark may have been preying on the dolphins, and may have mistaken the man for a dolphin.

The man estimated the shark to be about five feet wide and silver colored. Experts deduced it was a likely a great white shark. Fortunately the man’s foot was not severely damaged despite needing more than 25 stitches.

Solar Aircraft Crashes into Ocean

On June 26, 2003, an unmanned, solar electric-powered flying wing named Helios was flying at an elevation of about 3,000 feet. The length of the plane’s 247-foot wingspan suddenly began bending and flapping.

Technically speaking, the $15 million plane was experiencing “undampened pitch oscillations.” The flapping tore the skin of the fragile, lightweight craft, and it plunged into the sea about 10 miles offshore.

Much of the plane’s wreckage was later recovered, but the sensitive equipment was damaged and the plane was a total loss. In 2001, Helios had soared to 96,500 feet, setting the world altitude record for non-rocket-powered fixed-wing aircraft. The plane was powered by 10 propeller-driven engines.

The crash occurred during a flight being used to test a hydrogen fuel cell that can be recharged by the solar photovoltaic panels and fuel the plane’s electric motors, allowing the Helios to fly at night.

NASA later determined that the plane was not suited for turbulence due to changes in the configuration of the plane after its record breaking 2001 flight. A report concluded there should have been more analysis and risk assessment, and an “inappropriate decision” to fly the craft led to the crash.[x]

Helicopter Crash on Mt. Wai‘ale‘ale

On July 23, 2003 a Bell 206-B Jet Ranger helicopter crashed at about the 4,650 foot level on the northeast face of Kaua‘i’s Mt. Wai‘ale‘ale crater, then slid downward separating the cabin from the tail of the aircraft and killing all five aboard. Wreckage was strewn over several hundred yards of cliff.

A Kaua‘i Fire Department search and rescue team reached the crash site about three hours after the accident occurred. Rescuers first secured the main cabin of the craft to the steep cliff so that it would not fall further down the mountain. A rescue worker saw a foot sticking out of the wreckage, and removed debris to find a woman still alive but pinned against a rock by the helicopter. CPR was administered along with oxygen.

Swirling clouds and bad weather prevented rescuers from transporting the 33-year-old woman to a hospital, and they could only wait for a break inclement weather. The woman was able to speak with the rescuers, and her leg was splinted.

Rescuers tore upholstery from the aircraft and wrapped it around the woman to keep her warm, comforting her for the next two hours before she passed away on the mountainside.[xi]

360 Swimmers Rescued in Roughwater Competition

On September 1, 2003, 360 swimmers involved in the 34th annual Waikīkī Roughwater Swim competition had to be rescued from the water after an unusually strong current swept them out to sea.

The competitors were swimming a 2.384 mile course beginning at Waikīkī’s San Souci Beach, and more than a third of the competition’s 947 entrants were rescued.

Two hundred swimmers were rescued by city lifeguards, 93 were rescued by the Coast Guard, and 68 were rescued by the Fire Department. Many of the rescued swimmers were airlifted to safety. Local boaters also participated in the rescues. A total of 357 swimmers finished the race.[xii]

Shark Bites Woman’s Arm

On October 5, 2003, a woman wading in the ocean checking a fishing net off Cove Park in Kīhei, Maui near Kalama Beach was bitten by a gray-colored shark estimated to be about 4˝ feet long. The woman received injuries to her right index finger, right knee, and left thigh.

Barracuda Bites Man’s Arm

In October of 2003, a man swimming in Maui’s Honolua Bay was bitten on the forearm by what was thought to have been a barracuda. The 6-inch wound required 40 stitches.

When the attack occurred, the man was in nearshore murky waters about to swim farther offshore to snorkel in the clearer water. Barracudas, known in Hawaiian as kākū, have extremely sharp teeth, and have been known to bite people.[xiii]

Girl Bitten by Shark

On October 31, 2003, a 13-year-old girl on Kaua‘i’s north shore lost her left arm to a large tiger shark at Makua (Tunnels) surf spot. A nearly 14-foot- (4.3-m-) long tiger shark was caught a few days later in Hanalei Bay, and was believed to have been the shark responsible for the attack.

Plane Crashes Offshore of Maui

On November 16, 2003, a Coast Guard pilot flying his home-built, single engine Cozy III plane to San Francisco, crashed into the ocean off Maui’s north coast. The violent 90-mile per hour impact tore the plane apart. The pilot was able to inflate his life raft, but it was quickly popped by the sharp shards of wreckage.

A Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphin helicopter searched for 1˝ hours in the region before locating the downed pilot 95 miles north of Maui. A Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander, he had been in the water about 3˝ hours and suffered two broken vertebrae. He also had cuts and bruises, hypothermia, and chemical burns from floating fuel.

Ironically, the pilot had trained the men who rescued him, and had eaten lunch with them just nine hours before the crash.[xiv]

[i] The Garden Island, 1/07/2003.

[ii] Leidemann, Mike. Pilot judgment faulted in crash: Teen overreached ability, safety board finds. The Honolulu Advertiser, 4/1/2004.

[iii] Kubota, Gary T. Hopes dim in Maui flood search: Rescuers will keep looking for two visitors who likely died in flash floods. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 4/12/2003.

[iv] Wilson, Christie. Marlin spears whale expert off Maui. The Honolulu Advertiser, 4/16/2003.

[v] Kubota, Gary T. NTSB cites cargo cable in 2003 copter crash. The Honolulu Advertiser, 12/30/2004.

[vi] TenBruggencate, Jan. 4 rescued in Kaua‘i sea cave: Lifeguards use teamwork, timing to save lives. The Honolulu Advertiser, 5/28/2003.

[vii] Dayton, Kevin. Visitor bitten by eel sues resort: Mauna Lani pond called a hazard. The Honolulu Advertiser, 4/01/2004.

[viii] Dayton, Kevin. Copter wreckage pulled from path of oncoming lava. The Honolulu Advertiser, 6/17/2003.

Investigators work against lava approaching helicopter crash site. The Garden Islands, 6/17/2003.

[ix] Espanol, Zenaida Serrano. Fewer stung as jellyfish leave shores. The Honolulu Advertiser, 6/25/2003.

[x] Briscoe, David. Crash blamed on too little analysis: NASA says the Helios, which plummeted off Kauai, was not suited for turbulence. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 9/04/2004.

Sommer, Anthony. Bad vibes still rank as Helios affliction. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7/11/2003.

TenBruggencate, Jan. ‘Severe’ bending seen in solar craft: Reason for loss of stability unclear. The Honolulu Advertiser, 7/11/2003.

[xi] Apgar, Sally. Rescuer held hand as crash victim died: Bad weather kept the woman from getting from the helicopter to the Kauai hospital. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7/27/2003.

At crash site, woman clung to life. The Garden Island, 7/28/2003.

Chang, Lester. Crash wreckage recovered from Wai‘ale‘ale Crater: Helicopter slid several hundred feet before stopping. The Garden Island, 7/27/2003.

Chang, Lester. Four bodies recovered from crash site. The Garden Island, 7/25/2003.

Chang, Lester. Helicopter crashes into Wai‘ale‘ale Crater: Five dead including woman who dies after surviving impact. The Garden Island, 7/24/2003.

Cook, Chris. Copter crash wreckage salvage nearly complete: FAA could suggest tour helicopter changes. The Garden Island, 7/28/2003.

Most of helicopter wreckage recovered. The Honolulu Advertiser, 7/28/2003.

TenBruggencate, Jan. Helicopter crash on Kaua‘i kills pilot, 4 tourists. The Honolulu Advertiser, 7/24/2003.

5 die in Kauai copter crash: A rescue helicopter is scheduled to try today to recover the bodies. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7/24/2003.

[xii] 360 need rescuing in Roughwater Swim. The Honolulu Advertiser, 9/02/2003.

[xiii] Barracuda suspected in attack off Maui. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 10/27/2003.

Fish bite leads to 40 stitches for Maui man. The Honolulu Advertiser, 10/27/2003.

Hurley, Timothy. Maui man pledges caution after bite from sea creature. The Honolulu Advertiser, 10/28/2003.

Scott, Susan. Ocean Watch: Researcher experiences fish’s ferocity. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

[xiv] Boylan, Peter. Pilot survives crash off Maui: Coast Guard crew rescues buddy at sea. The Honolulu Advertiser, 11/17/2003.

Hurley, Timothy. Rescued pilot embarrassed, but glad to be alive. The Honolulu Advertiser, 11/18/2003.

Kubota, Gary T. Thoughts of wife, kids kept him afloat: William Swears felt sheepish as his own unit rescued him. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 10/18/2003.