‘As close to death as I’ve ever come’: Video shows perils of flash flooding on Maui trail

Updated: Sep. 17, 2019 at 11:04 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - New video of a flash flood on Maui that trapped a dozen hikers last week is bringing attention to the dangers of heading out on unsanctioned trails.

The video captures a raging river rushing over what was dry land moments earlier.

"We heard this huge crashing and it was really profound,” said hiker Katherine Wong. “I didn’t know what was going on. Then we saw the water level rising.”

Wong had recently moved to the Valley Isle and on Friday, took a friend hiking on a trail that cuts through private property between Twin Falls and Keanae.

Residents and visitors trespass daily on the land daily,

According to alltrails.com, the trail is owned by East Maui Irrigation.

The website hiking is allowed, but hikers must get permission beforehand and sign a release form.

Wong said she feels “lucky to be alive” after witnessing the fury of the flash flood.

“If we would have been in the boulders, in the riverbed, we would have been killed," she said. “It was close. It’s as close to death as I’ve ever come.”

Wong called 911 and later found out more people were stranded. In all, 12 people had to be rescued.

She said she had no idea she was on an unsanctioned trail. Now she is hoping others will learn from her mistake.

“There are no signs that it is a flash flood area. I think they should be metal signs stating this is a flash flood area, very, very dangerous. Don’t enter," Wong said. “Or enter at your own risk or beware. It needs to be noted that it is a flash flood area and people can get killed."

The Maui Fire Department issued a statement saying:

“The Maui Fire Department does not condone anyone hiking in this area. The threat of flash flooding with little to no advanced notice is extremely dangerous and can easily prove to be fatal. The weather along the trail can be clear and sunny, while torrential rains are occurring out of view upstream. There have also been many who have been tragically injured due to the steep, muddy terrain and slippery unstable rocks along the trail.”

The Hawaii Tourism Authority, meanwhile, has recently released new videos teaching cultural etiquette that will be played on multiple airlines and show up in visitors’ social media feeds.

For her part, Wong said she won’t be going on the trail where the flash flood happened.

“It won’t be in the bamboo forest. I won’t be in the bamboo forest at all. Marked trails only," she said.

Hawaii News Now reached out East Maui Irrigation for comment but did not hear back from them.

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