Six students conducting research in waist-high water in Waihee Stream on Thursday morning suffered some bumps, bruises and other minor injuries when the stream water rose to shoulder height within minutes, officials said.
"It was reported that the stream rose very quickly, causing the group to be bumped around by the rapidly rising waters," said state Department of Land and Natural Resources spokeswoman Deborah Ward in an email.
Firefighters responded along with police, who requested DLNR Conservation and Resources Enforcement officials for assistance. When first responders arrived, all students from the Kamehameha Schools summer enrichment program had made it out of the stream and were on its banks. The students were evaluated by paramedics. Injured students were taken to the Maui Memorial Medical Center emergency room for further evaluation. No one was hospitalized, a Kamehameha Schools spokesperson said.
All 36 students and 10 adults were safe, and students' families were being notified, school officials said Thursday afternoon.
"From the accounts we have heard, this was a scary event for everyone involved. We are thankful our students and the adults accompanying them are all safe and accounted for," said Anthony LeBron, director of Extension Education Services for Kamehameha Schools in a news release. "Our students and their leaders responded quickly and appropriately."
The group called for help at 9:29 a.m. when the students were about 100 feet upstream from the river mouth. Kamehameha Schools said the "unexpected surge of water" was estimated to be about 2 feet. The exploration session was being led by a state biologist, the DLNR said.
The students had permission to be on the land from the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust, which owns the property.
Director of Conservation Scott Fisher said he did not see the incident. He arrived after everyone was safe.
He said the phenomenon wasn't actually a flash flood but a "pulse" of water. The stream waters were not abnormally high, he added.
"They are very careful of what they do," Fisher said of the group. "This could have happened to just about anybody."
Fisher said that knowing how well staff members operate, they should be commended for preventing a more serious situation from occurring. Kamehameha has been conducting programs in the area for years.
He added that the land trust will be reviewing the situation.
"We want to be proactive that nothing like this happens," he said.
The students in the program have completed grades 6 or 7 and were collecting and observing stream life. Ho'olauna Maui, is a one-week Hawaiian culture-based learning experience that emphasizes instruction tied to place, culture, language and community give-back.
On Thursday, parts of Maui saw rainy weather. At Puu Kukui, high atop the West Maui Mountains, at least 3 inches of rain fell in a 24-hour period ending at 2 p.m. Thursday. Other locations on Maui that saw significant rainfall were Haiku with 0.71 of an inch for the same time period and Hana Airport with 0.67 inch.
The DLNR provided some stream safety tips:
* Be mindful of rain conditions along the mountaintops or ridges that can suddenly raise the water level in the stream.
* Use extreme caution if attempting to cross a swollen stream because rushing water is powerful.
* Caution may dictate finding an alternative route or waiting until the water level subsides before crossing a stream.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at email@example.com.