LIHUE — When Keith Kimball, Ian Jung and Nathan Metzger heard the sound of a person falling through the bushes and possibly off the slippery Kalalau Trail Saturday, they didn’t stop to think whether they should help.
They just did.
Within 10 to 15 seconds, the three friends jumped into action as nearby hikers worriedly announced that a man had fallen off a 40-foot cliff while he was heading down toward Hanakapiai Stream.
“We had just come up just as he had fallen,” Jung said. “We all felt like we needed to help the person. I didn’t even think about it.”
The man, a 69-year-old tourist from Oakland, had crashed through the bushes and had fallen over the edge, but did not fall the full 40 feet.
“The bushes caught his fall,” Kimball said. “There was a tree off the edge of the tree to hold on to the roots from. We were worried that if we waited too long, he was going to fall all the way down.”
The three men formed a human chain. Kimball lowered himself and positioned himself on a tree, grabbed hold of the roots and used his bamboo walking stick to lower it down to reach the 69-year-old, Kimball said. The man grabbed the stick and pulled himself up.
“He kind of used his one free hands to grab roots,” Kimball said. “I went and then my buddy Ian anchored himself against the tree. My friend (Jung) was pulling me. (The man) got to my waist. I was able to grab him. We managed to get down to a point where we can grab the guy and haul him back up.”
Metzger was at the top pulling Jung, while Jung held onto Kimball. Kimball dropped the bamboo stick as the 69-year-old reached for the roots to lift himself up, Kimball said.
Jung then helped pull the distressed hiker, while Kimball pushed him from below.
Once back at the top, Jung said a paramedic from the West Coast who had also been hiking Kalalau assisted the distressed hiker, who appeared to be injured.
The three men told the paramedic they would seek help at the Kee Beach trailhead.
About noon Saturday, Kauai firefighters received a call of an injured hiker stranded near Hanakapiai Stream, said county spokeswoman Sarah Blane.
Rescue 3 aboard Air 1 located the man in the valley and short hauled him to the Hanakapiai landing zone, where he was then flown to the Princeville Airport, she said and from there transported via ambulance to Wilcox Hospital.
Jung said he doesn’t feel like a superhero.
“I just wanted to make sure everyone was safe,” he said. “I saw Keith rush down there. I’m glad to hear that guy is alright.”
Kimball said he glad he and his friends were there to reach the man and pull him to safety.
“I don’t know how that guy went over,” Kimball said. “One second he was there, and the next he was gone. If anybody actually slipped to the ground, it wouldn’t have been pretty. But it didn’t happen.”