Teens spend cold night outside after leaving trail

Two 16-year-old Maui girls were found Saturday morning after they were reported missing Friday at Haleakala National Park’s Oheo pools area in Kipahulu, fire officials said.

The teens were found at 7:05 a.m. on the side of the stream, uninjured but very cold, Fire Services Chief Lee Mainaga said.

According to the National Park Service, “the girls were airlifted out, examined by paramedics and released. They had spent a cold and wet night but only had minor cuts and bruises. Two searchers were also temporarily stranded by rising waters at one point during the operation.”

“Because of the coordinated efforts of the Maui Fire Department, Maui police and the National Park Service, the girls were discovered unharmed and reunited with their families,” said the park’s Kipahulu District Manager Jimmy Herbaugh.

The incident was reported at 5:45 p.m. Friday when a man told National Park Service rangers that his daughter and her friend had been stranded by flooding stream waters near the Pipiwai Trail, park officials said.

Rangers began to search for the girls and were joined by Hana firefighters and police officers, park officials said.

An air search by Maui Fire Department’s Air One helicopter was conducted until 7:15 p.m. Friday, when it was suspended because of darkness.

The ground search continued in heavy rain and flood conditions until it became unsafe to continue around 9:30 p.m., park officials said. The search resumed at 5:30 a.m. Saturday, and the girls were found about 90 minutes later.

The teens were a part of a group of four people, all Maui residents, including the man, his son and daughter, and the daughter’s friend, Mainaga said. The group was hiking in the area Friday afternoon when the water in the stream started rising, separating the two teens from the others in their group, he said.

Park officials said the hikers had left the park trail along Pipiwai Stream and bypassed a fence designed to prevent hikers from going up Palikea Stream, a tributary that feeds into Pipiwai. The park closed the pools area of Oheo at 3 p.m. Friday, officials said.

The missing girls’ families, Kihei residents, met with rescue workers Friday and reported that they had been off-trail in the same area many times previously, park officials said.

“We are impressed with the bravery shown by the young women, thankful for the dedication shown by all the rescue teams, and above all relieved that all are safe,” park Superintendent Natalie Gates said.

She urged people to learn from the girls’ experience.

“Let’s honor the courage of the girls and their rescuers by spreading the word – follow park instructions on signs, check our website and listen to guidance from our staff. Not doing so invites tragedy,” she said.

Herbaugh added that “Haleakala National Park’s incredible beauty was created by violent, unpredictable natural forces. Cellphone coverage is not continuous in the park and rescue help can be up to one hour away. Stay on trail, heed park signs, fences and warnings, prepare for emergencies and plan to return from hikes well before dark.”