Man rescued from Maunakea

KAILUA-KONA — Light snow was falling high on the slopes of Maunakea Thursday evening when a U.S. Army helicopter spotted an injured mountain biker as daylight faded.

It was shortly before 6 p.m. when the HH Dash 60 medevac Blackhawk helicopter crew located the 53-year-old European man using visual recognition and infrared radar capabilities near 11,800 feet in elevation.

The mountain biker apparently became lost while traversing a trail off a hunter access road, and succumbed to the cold, dense fog and strong winds, according to the U.S. Army and Hawaii Fire Department, which worked together to rescue the foreign national.

The HFD received a call from the man at 12:17 p.m. Thursday reporting that he’d become lost while mountain biking on the northeastern slopes.

The man told dispatchers he’d been traversing Maunakea via a dirt hunter access road at about 8,000 feet elevation when he took a side trail. Temperatures were reported to be in the 30s throughout the day, HFD said.

The man eventually succumbed to the cold, rain, dense fog and strong winds. A ping of his cellphone triangulated him around the 11,800-foot elevation, said Mike Donnelly, spokesman for the U.S. Army Garrison-Pohakuloa.

Because of the elevation, neither of Hawaii County’s two helicopters could undertake the rescue. The U.S. Army was called in to assist with medevac as part of the two entities’ mutual-aid agreement.

The launch of the Blackhawk was quickly approved by Lt. Col. JR Borce, commander of the Pohakuloa Training Area. Three, two-man ground-rescue teams were also deployed from the installation.

Using grid coordinates, the ground and air teams located the injured mountain biker. The helicopter’s infrared radar was useful because the crew spotted the man because his body temperature set him apart from the background, Donnelly said.

The man was taken via helicopter to North Hawaii Community Hospital in Waimea, treated for minor injuries and released.

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