KANEOHE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Utah visitor says he knows he was trespassing when he climbed a fence to get to Haiku Stairs in Kaneohe and slipped, impaling his neck on what he described as a "booby trap" — a wooden box with screws sticking out.
"It was wet, it had been raining out, and my right foot slipped which brought me down and I just did a direct kind of neck plant on the nails," Jonathan McWillie said, who added that he was taken to an ER after the incident about 2 a.m. on Feb. 17.
He underwent two hours of surgery to stitch up two inch-deep puncture wounds after falling on the contraption, affixed to a homeowner's fence on Kuneki Street.
The owner of the property closest to the device declined to comment on the incident, but said he deals with dozens of trespassing hikers daily despite guards and the threat of a $1,000 citation.
Resident John Long lives near another access route. He put up fences around his property to deter hikers as well.
"He shouldn't have been in the man's yard, or whoever's yard it was," Long said. "I'm not gonna say it was a trap, but you don't belong there. Don't go in anybody's yard. I wouldn't trespass in someone's yard. I wouldn't want to invade in someone's privacy."
The so-called "Stairway to Heaven" has been closed since 1987 due to safety concerns. The Board of Water Supply if working on an environmental impact statement aimed at determining the future of the stairs.
But in the meantime, hikers are still drawn to the area's stunning views — and they're willing to trespass to get there.
McWillie, who is a photographer, said he was willing to pay the fine if he was caught because his trip was based around the hike.
"If I got caught by police and was issued a trespassing violation … I was fully willing to pay that," he said. "Obviously, it wasn't something I was willing to pay with my life."
McWillie added that he believes the homemade apparatus does more harm than good and is considering taking legal action.
"If you're putting up nails, booby traps on your fence, it's not gonna deter someone who has flown six hours to get there," he said. "You're already getting up at 1 in the morning to start this hike. I don't really think there's a deterrent there. All it's going to do is injure many more, or kill someone potentially."
The stairs' owner, the Board of Water Supply, declined comment on the incident "as it did not occur on BWS property."
The board also reminded the public that Haiku Stairs is closed "and that there is no legal access to the stairs."