Missing visitor found, rescued from Pali Notches trail

Missing visitor found, rescued from Pali Notches trail
HFD's Air Two helicopter lifts hiker Jan Vankat to safety
HFD's Air Two helicopter lifts hiker Jan Vankat to safety
Jan Vankat
Jan Vankat

NUUANU PALI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A hiker missing since Wednesday was found alive near the Pali Notches above the Nuuanu Pali Lookout Sunday.

Twenty-six year-old Jan Vankat is from Europe and had been staying with an uncle on Oahu since August. Authorities said he had told his family that he would be hiking at the Pali Notches, and was last seen Wednesday at 6 a.m.

Honolulu Fire Department rescue crews were able to find Vankat after police tracked down his cell phone.

"They have the technology to look at the signal from a cell phone, even if its not being used, if its on," said Honolulu Fire Capt. Terry Seelig.

Crews pinpointed the cell phone to a backpack that was found on the mountain, but Vankat had become separated from it.

"The backpack was below the area that has a rope to ascend the cliff they call the Chimney, and he was even farther below that by about a hundred yards," said Seelig.

Vankat's hiking friends had showed up at the lookout earlier Sunday morning in an attempt to look for him. They found that he had signed a hiker's logbook near the beginning of the trail.

"We went up there. We couldn't find him," said hiker Scott Casey. "We tried and we didn't bring him out."

However, another group of hikers on another trail heard what sounded like someone yelling, and called out to him.

"'Are you okay?' It sounded like 'yeah.' 'Do you need help?' 'Yeah,' is what it sounded like," said hiker Kevin Landers, recounting the exchange with Vankat. Landers said they weren't able to see him, but could at least hear him.

"Now that I think about it was pretty incoherent," Landers said. "We'd say, 'are you okay?' And we wouldn't really be able to understand exactly what he was saying, but he was responsive enough."

It was just a little while later that Vankat himself was spotted and airlifted down to a waiting ambulance in the lookout parking lot.

It's believed that Vankat fell and was unable to reach his backpack. Seelig said he was in serious but stable condition.

Friends and search crews said they were happy that he was rescued.

"Obviously we're all glad that he was found safe and still alive," said Casey. "He's a tough guy to be out there for four days."

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