Visitor Survives 115-Foot Fall Over Cliff At Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

(Top) The rescue was completed just as daylight as fading. NPS photo. (Bottom) NPS Ranger John Broward, the park's SAR coordinator, stands near the site where the man fell on Monday. (NPS photo by Jessica Ferracane)

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.

Comments

First off I apologize to all I am about to offend however there is something in the air and it is the “welcome to my house, just don't touch anything” attitude, and frankly I'm tired of hearing it.

Yes Ms. Orlando, people do stupid things and always will. There is no amount of effort that will infuse common sense into some people. Thankfully no one on your staff were injured but because of the stupid things people do is why you have a staff, and that's why they are specially trained for such incidents and what your visitors expect. And along with the stupid people are a vast majority who come and go and you never realize they were there and they are the ones who don't rock the boat but pay for everything.

Edmond –

I acknowledge your frustration about what you see as the “welcome to my house, just don't touch anything” attitude when directed toward park visitors. However, in the situation reported in this story (and far too many other "accidents"), I'd suggest a better analogy would be, "welcome to my house, but please don't jump off the balcony and see if you can land in the swimming pool."

You are absolutely right – the vast majority of visitors don't cause any problems. It is frustrating for park staffs when some visitors seem to go out of their way to defeat designed safety measures such as walls and railings.

A similar example occurred in this same park less than four month ago when according to local news reports a teenager was using a safety railing surrounding a steam vent to try to perform an "urban gymnastics stunt." He fell about 25 feet into the narrow opening, and was fortunate to land on a ledge and survive. He had to be rescued by the same ranger involved in this week's incident.

I for one was glad to see that the park superintendent took time to go to the scene of the recent incident, and after it was over, acknowledge the hazards to her staff inherent in any technical rescue operation - and comment about visitors engaging in risky behavior. The latest rescue and superintendent's comments got some fairly wide media coverage, so maybe someone will read about this incident and think twice before doing something dumb.

Your comment about “jumping off the balcony” fits better than mine, however the situations created by clueless people are going to always be present and media coverage of any rescue will only be heard by the vast majority that are already safe and thoughtful.