4 Pearl City teenagers swept away in Kalihi stream

4 Pearl City teenagers swept away in Kalihi stream
Capt. Terry Seelig; Honolulu Fire Department
Capt. Terry Seelig; Honolulu Fire Department

Four Pearl City high school students are safe after being swept away in the Kalihi Stream Tuesday morning.

"We went to the ice pond and we were walking back and it was raining and then we thought we could make it across the bridge and we got swept down," explained 16-year-old Matt, frantically just minutes after he got out of the water.

"We were by the bridge, over there, the stream – the current was flowing hard – and then we just got swept down, me and three other girls. I got one girl out, but two other girls are still missing," said Matt.

Fifteen minutes later the two girls were located. Officials say both had managed to get out of the water safely, without help from firefighters.

"We're really, really fortunate for this outcome where no one was seriously hurt or worse and all are accounted for," said Capt. Terry Seelig of the Honolulu Fire Department.

Officials say the group of seven teens was caught in the rising water of the Kalihi Stream while at Naohia Falls in Kalihi Valley, more commonly known as the popular swimming hole, Ice Ponds. According to Hawaii News Now meteorologist Guy Hagi, the area was drenched with more than 14 inches of rainfall since late Monday night.

"They all described it, it was a surge of water that came down and caused the stream to overflow and become a raging torrent and that's typically what will happen when there's a strong, sustained rain. These are called flash floods because they can happen in a flash and they rise over the normal levels of the stream," described Capt. Seelig.

School may be out for the high school students, but officials hope they learned a valuable lesson about the importance of paying attention to their surroundings.

"If you're going into the mountains at any time, even during the summer, pay attention to the weather. Not just as it's happening the day of your hike, but what has it been over the last several days," explained Capt. Seelig.  "You have to know, not just what the trail's like, but what the environment is like and if it's been raining, it will be muddy.  If it's been raining hard, you'll get rising water.  If you're anywhere near a stream or a waterfall pool – it can prove to be very, very, very dangerous."

Four of the teens were taken to the hospital with minor injuries for observation.

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