After a night on a windswept ridge of Mt. Wai’ale’ale, David O’Quinn of Wailua Homesteads was plucked from the face of the mountain by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter around 10:30 a.m. Saturday.
“He appeared to be in good condition with no injuries,” said Coast Guard spokesperson Marsha Delaney. “He was dehydrated and had some scratches.”
Rescue specialists were notified Friday of the stranded hiker by two helicopter tour company pilots who had seen O’Quinn waving from the outside wall of the crater on the Lihu’e side of Mt. Wai’ale’ale. “He was about 2,100 feet up on the north side of the crater along a steep ridgeline going in there,” said director of operations for Inter-Island Helicopters, Marty Kydland.
Kydland was the first to spot O’Quinn Friday as he shuttled a group of customers on an island tour in his company’s chopper known as Air-1. “He (O’Quinn) was waving a towel or shirt over his head so we circled around and I tried to get a hand signal from him,” Kydland said. “He just kept waving the towel so I talked to him on the PA and then took GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) coordinates for the location.”
Kydland then left the location and contacted air traffic control at the Lihu’e Airport, who then reported it to the Kaua’i Fire Department.
A search for O’Quinn involving the U.S. Navy H3 chopper from the Pacific Missile Range Facility and Air-1 was called off at 5:30 p.m. Friday due to thick clouds and approaching darkness.
The search resumed at 7 a.m. with Air-1 and the Coast Guard chopper out of Barber’s Point on O’ahu. “The HH65 Dolphin Helicopter launched from Barbers Point and flew to the last known position of the man and he was still there,” said Delaney.
“He made the wise decision to stay put so he was in the exact same spot when we went in there that he was the day before,” said Kydland.
“They (crew of the Coast Guard helicopter) saw him moving and decided the best route of action would be to lower a basket and pick him up,” said Delaney.
After the lift was successful they flew O’Quinn to the Lihu’e Airport where he was then taken by ambulance to Wilcox Hospital. A hospital spokesperson said O’Quinn was discharged at 6:15 p.m.
Kydland contracts with the Kaua’i Fire Department to fly search and rescue operations on the island and says that his company participates in about 50 rescues a year. “Most of them are on the Na Pali side,” Kydland said. “This is the first one on Mt. Wai’ale’ale since the Jack Harter crash years ago.”
Kydland says he doesn’t think it is a good idea to be hiking where they found O’Quinn. “I highly recommend people don’t do it,” he said.
According to a KFD press release, O’Quinn did tell a friend where he planned to be and to alert authorities if he did not return by a specific time. According to the press release, O’Quinn, “left for a day hike on Loop Road in Wailua Homesteads on Wednesday.”
His friend reported O’Quinn missing on Thursday morning according to the press release.
- Adam Harju, editor, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 227) and firstname.lastname@example.org.