Zip-line employee dies after falling 150 feet

An employee of Piiholo Ranch Zipline died Thursday morning after she fell approximately 150 feet into a gulch in a zip-line accident near Piiholo Ranch, officials said.

On its Facebook page, Piiholo Ranch Zipline identified the woman as Patricia “Trish” Rabellizsa. A police report later confirmed the name of the 29-year-old victim from Kihei. Earlier reports had listed a different age.

A Makawao fire company and a Kahului rescue crew responded to the 9:51 a.m. call, said Capt. Lionel Montalvo, Maui Fire Department spokesman. He said Makawao firefighters arrived 16 minutes later and the rescue crew was on scene by 10:11 a.m., with the Fire Department’s Air One rescue helicopter arriving shortly afterward.

Rescue efforts were hampered by the difficult terrain, vegetation and tree cover, Montalvo said. Fire crews hiked to the unresponsive woman, who was airlifted back up to the ridge, he said.

Police spokesman Lt. William Juan reported Thursday evening that first responders performed lifesaving efforts but the victim was pronounced dead at the scene.

Fire crews left the scene by 1:20 p.m., but police were continuing to investigate the incident Thursday afternoon. The cause of death has not been determined pending autopsy results, Juan said.

Piiholo Ranch Zipline officials couldn’t be reached for comment. But the business’s Facebook page read: “The Piiholo Zipline ohana expresses its condolences and sympathy to those involved in today’s tragic event. We especially offer our deepest aloha and prayers to the family and friends of our co-worker Patricia ‘Trish’ Rabellizsa at this difficult time. We are working in full cooperation with the Maui Police Department’s ongoing investigation.”

According to The Associated Press, a Big Island zip-line tower collapsed in 2011 because of weak soil, sending Ted Callaway, 36, of Lahaina plunging to his death. The line was being built along the Honolii Stream. Another worker was critically injured in the accident.

State Auditor Marion Higa said in a 2012 report submitted to Gov. Neil Abercrombie and the Legislature that there wasn’t enough evidence to suggest zip lines are seriously dangerous, despite the death of Callaway, who was testing the line at the time of his death. When lawmakers proposed having zip-line companies regulated by the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, Higa said it was not clear whether regulations would have prevented the accident.