Hiker found after stranded 4 days in Wahiawa wilderness says 'thank you'

Hiker found after stranded 4 days in Wahiawa wilderness says 'thank you'
Justin Clark and his mom
Justin Clark and his mom

WAHIAWA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After spending four nights lost in the wilderness above Wahiawa, a battered and bruised hiker says thank you to everyone who helped save his life.

By the time rescuers reached him, Justin Clark was hungry and dehydrated and he was starting to hallucinate.

But just as he began to lose hope, that's when he spotted the search helicopter flying overhead.

He says he knew it was only a matter of hours before the last official search day was over.

"You're the best, I love you mom," Clark said to his mom on Sunday from his hospital bed.

With scratches all over his body and two swollen ankles, the missing hiker was found around 4 p.m. on Saturday after being stranded in Wahiawa woods for four days.

The 32-year-old went for a walk on the Schofield-Waikane Trail early Tuesday morning, something he has done countless times before. But this time he wanted to explore something different.

"I had some time on my hands, so I decided to check out a new trail that went to the south fork of the Kaukonahua stream. Turns out, the south fork of the stream is way more treacherous than the north fork," said Clark.

Clark said it was only after 15 minutes into the trail when he realized he had gotten lost.

"My intention was to not go hiking down that trail, my intention was just to peek for about 15 minutes to see what's there because I've never been down that part. But within 15 minutes I was lost. I took a wrong turn somewhere," he said.

Fifteen minutes turned into three full days. That's when he said he noticed he had just been walking in circles.

"At this point my body is so malnourished, I can't even walk straight. Every time I would take a step, I would stumble and get even more hurt."

With no food, and only water from the streams, Clark said on day four he felt like giving up hope he would ever be found alive.

Clark's mother, Shirley Seeger, says the same thoughts would sometimes cross her mind.

"You know you vacillate between that and saying, 'No I'm going to be positive, I don't care, no matter what, we're gonna keep up the search.' I think my greatest fear was that it was the last day of the search," Seeger said.

Just a couple of hours before sundown on Saturday, things took a dramatic turn.

"All of a sudden, this fireman...I forgot his name...I refer to him as 'the angel' because he was like my guardian angel, he found me…and he started talking to me and saying, 'Hey we're here to help,'" Clark said.

"It was the first time during the whole trip I actually started to cry," he said.

Jason Nakasato was part of the private search party and came to visit Clark at the hospital. The two had never met before then.

"It's Hawaii, the hiking community is small. No one really is a stranger. I may not have met him in person, but we have so many mutual friends…so I know he would have done the same, Justin would have done the same for me, so it was a no brainer," Nakasato said.

As Clark continues to recover, he wants to publicly thank everyone who came out to look for him, too many people to recall.

Clark said this won't stop him from hiking in the future, but he vows to be more careful. Plus, he advises others to always take the necessary equipment, like a whistle, or lighter, and of course, a hiking buddy.

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