We like our visitors on Kauai. For the most part, we treat our guests well (not counting the traffic, some restrooms on the North Shore and all those potholes). While some folks may not particularly want to admit it, this island’s economy depends on tourism. Without visitors spending money here, Kauai’s economic outlook would be grim. Yes, that does mean we have more crowded roads and beaches, which can be annoying for locals, but that is part of the equation when tourism drives your economy. We will have more than 1 million guests on Kauai this year, and we certainly hope they have a good time and enjoy our beautiful beaches and restaurants. We hope they see and experience what makes this island so special, and that they feel the aloha spirit.
So what’s the point of all this?
We do ask that our visitors be careful. If they are not, they can get seriously hurt. It doesn’t happen often, but it does. Chances are, with so many people coming here, a few will trip and fall. It’s unavoidable, really. A couple recent incidents bring this to the spotlight.
Here’s what happened.:
A 38-year-old woman from San Diego was airlifted Monday morning from Queen’s Bath in Princeville.
Hanalei fire personnel were dispatched to the area about 11:30 a.m. While on scene rescuers located the woman on the Queen’s Bath trail where she was unable to walk due to a leg injury.
Rescue 3 aboard Air 1 then airlifted the woman to a nearby landing zone. The woman refused further treatment from first responders at the scene and was transported to Wilcox Hospital by a private vehicle.
“Queen’s Bath can be a dangerous place even in the best conditions,” said Fire Chief Robert Westerman. “We urge all beachgoers, residents and visitors, to visit our lifeguarded beaches, and to always use discretion when enjoying outdoor activities.”
It’s unfortunately a middle-aged woman suffered a leg injury that left her unable to make the short hike back to her car, assuming it was parked in the nearby parking lot. It’s fortunate the county was able to send Rescue 3 aboard Air 1 to give her a helicopter ride to a landing zone so she could get a private ride to the hospital, rather than utilize an ambulance, which would be expensive.
Last Saturday, a female visitor from Utah was hiking along the Waipo‘o Falls trail in Kokee when she fell and injured her ankle.
The woman had been hiking with her husband and son about 12:30 p.m. when the incident occurred.
Rescue 3 aboard Air 1 responded to the scene, while Truck 7 responded to a nearby landing zone.
The victim was short hauled to the landing zone by the rescue specialists and then turned over to Truck 7. The first responders applied a splint to the woman’s ankle, and kept her as comfortable as possible until Medic 20 arrived.
The victim was then placed on a gurney, loaded into the ambulance, and taken to Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital in Waimea. She was later transferred to Wilcox Hospital in Lihue where she was treated for her injury.
We hope she recovers from her severe ankle injury that required a helicopter, an ambulance and several rescue specialists to retrieve her. That is not how we want people to spend their vacation.
Now, for those who live here, they might wonder if those folks who were hurt and need county resources to deliver them to safety are billed. They are not. The county doesn’t charge individuals for rescue-related services. Air 1 rescues are considered emergency services that are covered in the Fire Department’s budget.
The average cost to operate the helicopter is about $450 an hour plus fuel plus crew. It could be more, depending on the length of the call and the number of crew members.
Some might argue that it’s only fair that those who are hurt and require emergency services should pay the bill. They would argue that locals should not have to foot the bill via taxes for guests who need helicopters and ambulances and rescue specialists. They have a point.
If it happened so often it was a financial burden to the county, we would agree. But it’s not. As well, if the county tried to make people pay for such services, it would have to try and collect the money. It doesn’t want or need to become a bill collector of visitors.
Some might also argue, the county shouldn’t respond to minor injuries, like a twisted ankle or banged up knee, and just tell the person to tough it out and limp their way back to their car. It’s likely many do just that.
But let’s say it refused to respond to a call for help on the Kalalau Trail because it wasn’t deemed serious enough. If the person’s condition worsened, there could be a legal liability, and the county doesn’t need that, either.
So, the county must continue to respond to our guests in need. All we can do is welcome our guests and remind them to be careful out there.