KE‘E — Air One confirmed one female slipped out to sea Thursday afternoon at Hanakapi‘ai Beach along the Na Pali Coast.
The woman was part of a group of hikers who were stranded on the far side of a swollen Hanakapi‘ai Stream while en route back to the Kalalau trailhead at Ke‘e Beach Thursday afternoon.
County of Kaua‘i officials report the woman was apparently swept downstream while attempting to cross the stream. The woman’s identity is not yet known.
At the same time, Kaua‘i Fire Department officials were working to help 54 stranded hikers to shelter in place along the Hanakapi‘ai Stream until rescue crews could return this morning. Crews brought in bags of blankets and other necessities to help the hikers through the night.
Two rescue personnel were among the group who were stranded for the night.
Communication was limited to yelling at people to stay put until helicopters could return at first light this morning. Rescuers were also preparing to set up ropes to help people cross the river if possible.
Rescue crews reported seeing three additional people still stuck near Hanakapi‘ai Falls, though it was unclear at press time if they were part of the group of 54 hikers.
“The wind conditions are nasty up there,” one rescuer said over the scanner. He said crews were unable to talk with the three hikers, but expressed hope that they would shelter in place overnight.
“We hope they will,” one rescuer said.
Firefighters from the Hanalei Fire Station hiked into Hanakapi‘ai to assist the stranded hikers.
Fire officials reported a rise in the stream’s water level due to rainy conditions throughout the day.
At around 3:45 p.m., hikers coming out of Hanakapi‘ai Valley notified Ke‘e Beach lifeguards of the stranded hikers, according to county officials.
Rescue teams were called in around 4:30 p.m. to assist hikers who were having difficulty crossing the Hanakapi‘ai Stream from the Kalalau side back to the trailhead.
Initial reports said there were at least 20 stranded hikers.
Some hikers attempted crossing the swollen stream before help arrived, according to county officials.
Scanner chatter indicated none of the hikers were in need of medical attention.
The Coast Guard, along with Air 1 with Rescue 3, Engine 1 and lifeguards from the Ocean Safety Bureau were dispatched on Jet Ski from Ke‘e Beach as part of the rescue efforts.
Rescuers continued searching the coastline until nightfall for any signs of the woman who was swept out to sea.
Several hikers were already attempting to cross on their own by the time fire officials arrived on scene. Officials did report that the stream was swollen due to rainy conditions throughout the day.
By 5:15 p.m., there were reports of surf with 6-to 8-foot faces.
The missing woman’s husband reportedly hiked out with fire officials and met with a Life’s Bridges representative.
Hanakapi‘ai Beach is the island’s deadliest, with 29 drowning deaths since 1970, according to a 2011 report, “Drowning Deaths in the Nearshore Marine Waters of Kaua‘i,” by Charles Troy Blay.
High waves and strong currents run year-round, and winter months are especially dangerous, according to the report.