Hawaii rescuers end search for woman swept downstream near Piihonua Falls

(Courtesy: Facebook)
(Courtesy: Facebook)

HILO, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Hawaii County Fire Department has ended their search for a Chicago native swept away in flood waters near Piihonua Falls late last month.

Hawaii fire officials said they conducted aerial searches on Sunday and Monday, all of which have turned up empty for signs of Kelly Mrowinski.

On Jan. 26, Mrowinski was hiking with a friend as they attempted to cross the Wailuku River in Hilo. Officials say flash floods swept them over Piihonua Falls.

The man made it to shore, but Mrowinski was never found.

Crews were only able to recover her cell phone.

"We've extended the search several days at the request of the family, to rule out some areas so they may have some closure for this tragic loss," said Batt. Chief Matthias Kusch. "In my 22 years of experience, and a lot of that at rescue, we've never found someone this late."

Kusch said normal search guidelines for river rescues last five days, but Mrowinski's mother pleaded with officials to extend the search.

After 10 days, the intense search operations officially ended Monday.

"We've done our best, but without any luck at this point," Kusch said.

"Our thoughts and prayers goes out to her family during this time," Hawaii fire officials said in a release. "The search included many hours of search through the air, with ground crews, and dive teams."

Mrowinksi, a Chicago-native, moved to the Big Island in January. She's a traveling nurse who was working at Hilo Medical Center.

Wailuku River is the longest river in the state and is described to be treacherous and complex.

Last November, it claimed the lives of a San Diego couple.

In July 2017, a 44 year old man was critically injured after falling into the river near Boiling Pots.

In August 2016, a California visitor drowned and a year before that, a Kona swim instructor died while tubing in the rapids.

"People often forget Hawaii Island is a beautiful place and you can go and enjoy it in shorts and slippers, but the terrain is extremely challenging," said Kusch. "I advise to use good, common sense, talk to local people who are familiar with river and talk to lifeguards."

Authorities said search operations may continue if any further evidence is found.

Mrwowinki's family declined to comment.

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