A 73-year-old man survived a 115-foot fall over a cliff at Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park earlier this week, but his predicament wasn't discovered until the following day. He was successfully rescued by rangers with help from a helicopter just as daylight was fading Tuesday evening.
At about 4:45 p.m. on Tuesday, August 13, a hiker contacted rangers at the park's Kīlauea Visitor Center and reported that she had heard someone crying for help from the dense vegetation along Halema'uma'u Trail. That trail lies directly below Volcano House, a hotel which overlooks Halema‘uma‘u Crater at the summit of Kilauea.
The hiker told rangers she first thought the cries were a prank, but fortunately for 73-year-old Harry Osachy, she decided to report the situation at the visitor center. Rangers who investigated the report discovered that Osachy had been stranded overnight after climbing over a barrier and falling 115 feet down a sheer cliff.
NPS Ranger John Broward, the park's Search and Rescue (SAR) Coordinator, was lowered by helicopter and pulled the victim to safety as the sun began to set. Osachy was transported by ambulance to Hilo Medical Center, with injuries to his pelvis and shoulder. He had numerous scrapes and suffered from dehydration.
Given the location, the outcome could have been much worse. How did the survive the fall?
"Luckily, he landed in a dense thicket of native 'uluhe fern, which broke his fall," Broward said.
Osachy is Micronesian and speaks little English, but told rescuers that he had fallen on Monday. The exact time that the incident occurred, or how or why he was on the wrong side of the barrier, was not known at the time of the report. The man is a resident of Kurtistown, Hawaii, a small town not far from the park.
This was the thirteenth SAR mission at Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park this year. Last year, park SAR crews responded to a total of 26 incidents.
"Once again, risky behavior by a visitor endangered the lives of our staff," said Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando, who was on site during the dramatic rescue. "We were able to execute an exemplary response from our cadre of specially trained first responders, and thankfully no one else was injured," she said.