WAIPIO VALLEY, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) -
The university student who died during a hike on the Big Island is being remembered by friends as a loving and compassionate woman. Lindsey Nickerson, 22, moved to Kailua-Kona to attend classes at the University of the Nations which is part of the Youth With A Mission network.
She became separated from the 24 other people in the group less than half an hour into the hike to Hiilawe Falls in Waipio Valley on Saturday, according to authorities. The popular trail crosses private property. Frustrated residents said that they constantly warn trespassers about the dangers. Search crews found Nickerson's body in a river the next day.
"We figured no one in their right mind would be hiking up in this kind of weather so we stayed home and unfortunately, this is what had happened," said Kula Tolentino-Potter, a taro farmer in Waipio Valley.
Tolentino-Potter said several families have put up fences and no trespassing signs to keep hikers off private property and away from hazards such as falling boulders, but tour groups and visitors keep coming through.
"In one day, I counted eight different tour companies offering tours up to our property, our leased land, to hike up to Hiilawe Waterfall," she said. "A lot of people fall and slip and we've had cases where people smash their face in or bones sticking out of their legs."
Tolentino-Potter founded a non-profit that works with schools and volunteers to restore the land and offer cultural experiences. She said she tried reaching out to the University of the Nations since groups from the school hike the trail often.
"They were warned lots of times that it's very dangerous, and I'm really feeling for that 22-year-old girl that lost her life because you expect your school to take you to areas that are safe," said Tolentino-Potter.
Hawaii News Now contacted the university but did not receive a response.
Police do not suspect foul play. An autopsy will determine the exact cause of death.