Mysterious 911 call keeps rescuers searching

Hikers-in-danger story still has happy ending

Published  6:16 AM HST Jun 25, 2013
Honolulu Fire Department helicopter
HONOLULU -

After two hiking deaths over the weekend, Monday evening ended on a happy note for young hikers in trouble.

It's a story that came with a mysterious 911 call. The call for help came Monday afternoon from the back of Palolo Valley.

"We got a call for hikers in distress from a group of seven headed to Ka'au Crater. They complained that a group of pigs was either chasing them or attacking them," said Capt. Gary Lum with the Honolulu Fire Department.

Fire rescue crews sprang into action -- in the air to search for the hikers in danger, and on the ground as others hit the trail.

Very soon though, this seemingly straightforward trail rescue took a strange turn.

"This is an unusual case," added Capt. Lum.

A group of seven hikers was spotted, but they said they didn't make the 911 call. That meant rescuers kept searching, trying to reach the hikers in need.

"The phone they used we couldn't call back on. We couldn't get an update or a location," said Capt. Lum.

Meanwhile, Palolo Valley resident Lia Atiga was worried as the fire department helicopter circled overhead. She knew four of her kids and a pair of grandchildren went hiking and only two had returned.

"Those two turned around because the trail got all shady and muddy. It wasn't looking good," said Atiga.

The trip to Ka'au Crater is usually an annual one for Atiga's kids, grandchildren and the neighbor's children.

"Every year my kids go on hiking trips: Diamond Head, Koko Head, Manoa and they do this one last," added Atiga.

This time, the rain in the mountains got the hikers off track and then the wild pigs caused additional concern, which led to that 911 call -- the one initially denied by the group.

"I want them to realize that if you needed help, step up to the plate and say 'Yeah, we called 911.'  Don't be heroes and say we can do it on our own when you can't," said Atiga.

Because there were concerns the afternoon event may have been a false 911 call, Honolulu police officers met the hikers as they got off the trail.

In the end, there were no criminal repercussions from their actions, just a verbal backlash from their mom and grandma.

The hike to Ka'au Crater is a popular one from the back of Palolo Valley.  Residents said they've seen an increase in hikers over the past few years, even though it supposed to be off-limits to the public.

Those familiar with the hike say it can be dangerous when it is wet and there are plenty of wild pigs this time of year with all the mountain apples around.

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