Maui News

Three Rescues Conducted ʻĪao as Flash Floods Catch Swimmers Unaware

October 12, 2015, 1:00 AM HST
* Updated October 12, 1:29 PM
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Radar image of West Maui courtesy Maui Fire Department.

Radar image of West Maui courtesy Maui Fire Department.

Maui firefighters responded to three separate reports of youth caught in flash flooding conditions along the river that runs through ʻĪao Valley on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 11, 2015.

The first incident was reported at 1:34 p.m. at Kepaniwai Park in ʻĪao when an 11-year-old boy and 12-year-old girl, both from Wailuku, were swept downstream by flood waters.  .

Wailuku firefighters arrived at the park at 1:46 p.m. and learned the children had been assisted out of the stream by bystanders prior to their arrival.

Firefighters say paramedics treated the pair for minor bumps and scrapes.

As firefighters were confirming that all were accounted for, 9-1-1 dispatchers informed crews of another possible swift-water rescue at ʻĪao Valley State Park.

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A Kahului rescue crew en route to Kepaniwai Park was redirected to the second incident at the State Park above.  The Rescue 10 fire crew arrived at 1:56 p.m. and learned that an 18-year-old male resident from Haʻikū was stranded on the south side of ʻĪao Stream.

File photo by Wendy Osher. River at ʻĪao in Wailuku.

File photo by Wendy Osher. River at ʻĪao in Wailuku.

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Fire officials say the man was swimming with four other family members at popular swimming holes along the footpath within the park, when they heard sounds of rocks rumbling just before the rush of water forced them to scramble up the embankment.  The man became stranded on the opposite side of the river because it was the quickest path to safety.

Rescue crews used a rope secured across the stream to walk the man safely across. No one was injured in the incident.

About a half-an-hour later at 2:05 p.m. firefighters from Kahului responded to yet another call for two stranded teens in an area roughly a 1⁄2 mile above Mokuhau Park in Happy Valley.

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Crews arrived at 2:19 p.m. to learn that a group of seven children from Wailuku, ranging in age from 10 to 16, were swimming at a local swimming hole when a flash flood caught them by surprise.

Fire officials say a 15-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy managed to scramble up the side of the stream. A resident on ʻĪao Valley Road used a rope to help the teens up to his property on the south side of the river.

A fire battalion chief picked up the teens and drove them back to Mokuhau Park where firefighters were gathering information. None of the teens were injured.

“Despite only a light drizzle in ʻĪao Valley when firefighters arrived, it was not apparent that flash flood conditions was occurring higher upslope; however, dark clouds were seen deeper within the valley,” said Maui Fire Services Officer Edward Taomoto.  He said a check of weather radar at 1:50 p.m. did show a heavy downpour over the West Maui Mountains.

Department officials used the opportunity to remind the public to be alert when swimming in mountain streams, pay attention to the weather conditions, and be vigilant if there are dark clouds in the mountains upslope.

“If you hear a strange rumbling sound like river rocks being tossed into each other, if you notice the water quickly turning brown or rising very rapidly, find the quickest path to high ground. Once on high ground, wait till rescuers arrive or until flood waters recede,” said FSO Taomoto.

“Don’t attempt to walk out on your own because it will make it more difficult for rescuers to locate you or confirm that you are safe. Also, you could become lost or injured while attempting to find your own way out,” he said.

Firefighters from Wailuku and Kahului, along with a battalion chief responded to the incidents.

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