How A ig Island Famil’s Traged Is aving Lives Toda A couple lost their son in a hiking fall 20 ears ago. The turned their grief into a memorial foundation raising mone for lifeguards and re ghters. Nathan agle / Januar 31, 2017
In late August 1997, Daniel are set o for the 500-foot Kapaloa Falls in the ack of Pololu Valle on the rugged north shore of the ig Island. The 25-ear-old wanted photos of his “cathedral” to take with him ack to college on the mainland. ut that all changed in an instant when he fell o the trail, plummeting hundreds of feet onto a rock ledge near the falls. He was ling there motionless when a rescue team from the Hawaii Count Fire Department joined his parents in the search.
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Frank are and Laura Maller-are hold a photo at their home in Kailua-Kona that shows a helicopter crew attempting to rescue their son, Daniel, who died after falling o a trail in Pololu Valle near Kapaloa Falls in 1997.
After 10 hours of tring to reach him through the dense forest and steep cli walls via helicopter, the mission was called o . ut Frank are and Laura Maller-are refused to leave a near lookout without knowing if their son was dead or possil just unconscious. The rescue crew memers volunteered to continue working and one of the island’s est pilots, David Okita, arrived to lend his expertise. The lacked ropes long enough to rappel, so their onl option was a risk helicopter maneuver similar to one that had killed a search team two ears earlier on Oahu. Okita was nall ale to maneuver close enough to drop o two re rescue specialists, Clarence Young and James Kunioshi, who were suspended from a cale attached to the helicopter. “It was so tight that the prop wash was knocking leaves o the trees in the valle,” Frank are said in an interview earlier this month at the famil’s
home just north of Kailua-Kona, where the owned a dental practice. Courtes: ric Tessmer/Flickr
Daniel are was hiking in the ack of Pololu Valle on the north shore of the ig Island when he fell to his death.
Young and Kunioshi arrived to nd Daniel had died. The radioed the news to his parents efore loading his od onto a rescue litter harness attached to the helicopter. Okita ퟀ�ew the od out of the valle and the ares went to the hospital to identif their son. “We knew the were putting their lives on the line for Dan,” Laura said. “How do ou thank someone for that?” The ares soon learned the count had no program to honor rescue personnel who go aove and eond the call of dut. In the midst of their grieving, the also wondered wh the Fire Department did not have ropes long enough to rappel into the island’s deep valle, a safer option than using a helicopter in some circumstances.
“Wh on earth did the not have the rappelling ropes?” Laura said. “These canons and valles have een here for thousands of ears.” he and her husand decided to u two sets of rappelling ropes for the count — one for the Hilo side on the east and one for the Kona side on the west — at aout $1,500 apiece. And so egan the Daniel R. are Memorial Foundation, which will mark its 20th anniversar this fall at the annual dinner that Laura and Frank put on to honor the ear’s most outstanding emergenc responders and raise mone for equipment and training eond what’s included in the Fire Department’s udget. Courtes: Daniel R. are Memorial Foundation
Daniel are died ept. 2, 1997, after falling o a trail in Pololu Valle near Kapaloa Falls.
To date, the foundation has raised more than $1.5 million to ene t re ghters, rescue personnel and — especiall in recent ears — lifeguards.
“It’s a drop in the ucket to what the reall need, ut it has helped,” Laura said. The department’s “wish list” has onl grown over time. Its most recent requests totaled $84,000, ut the foundation has een ale to help meet the need each ear. A huge silent auction is part of the annual dinner at the Fairmont Orchid, which donates the use of its allroom. Artists contriute paintings, hotels provide vacation packages, restaurants o er gift certi cates and man others donate what the can for the event, which several hundred people attend. “It’s not Frank and I,” Laura said. “We were the start of this ut the communit has emraced this and made it igger and etter than we could have dreamed. It’s aloha at its est.”
“The ares took what happened to them and turned one life lost so that others ma e saved.” — Lle Tamariuchi, re rescue specialist The mone also comes from private usinesses, such as ank of Hawaii and Young ros., and other nonpro ts, such as the Ironman Foundation, not to mention people who survived near-fatal accidents thanks to the heroics of lifeguards and re ghters. George Rider, a retired corporate lawer, was in Hawaii last ear for his daughter’s wedding when he roke his neck odsur ng at Laaloa each,
also known as Magic ands. Lifeguards Ran McGuckin and Anton Finle rescued him, stailizing his spine while ringing him in. The eventuall resuscitated him using CPR and were prepared to use an automated external de rillator that the foundation had purchased, Laura said. After several months of reha at Craig Hospital in Colorado, Rider can now walk, although his cervical verterae remain fused together, making him unale to turn his head, she said. He donated $5,000 to the foundation, which Laura said will e used for a new PA sstem at Magic ands so lifeguards can warn eachgoers of dangerous conditions. It carries their voices much farther than a megaphone. Rider’s sister made a video descriing his recover: Ox Strong by wailukuphoto
The ares have een astonished what the lifeguards and re ghters have needed over the ears — things the had assumed the count alread provided. unscreen, for instance, new oard shorts, weatherproof coats, communication equipment and other relativel inexpensive items. ut also igger ticket items, like refurishing a rescue oat.
“There’s all these things that the’re doing that we don’t know aout until something happens,” Frank said. When a 15-ear-old o jumped o the rocks at Hapuna each last ear and drowned, his od was discovered four das later in a cave 60 feet underwater. Rescue divers had to take o their scua tanks and push them through a hole to reach him ecause it was so narrow, Laura said. ut the real issue was how the divers had to communicate with their team on a oat at the surface: The were using the “OATH sstem” of tugs on a rope — one tug for OK, two tugs for advance, three tugs for take up slack and four tugs for help. After the incident, Ironman donated $23,000 to the foundation, which used the mone to u dive masks that have communication sstems so divers can talk to each other underwater and to those on the oat and on land. Fire equipment operator David Mahon said the new sstem removes “a lot of the dangers” in operations like that. The ares’ foundation put together this video aout the diver communication sstem: Equipment (diver communication system) 2016 by Daniel Sayre Foundation
Fire rescue specialist Lle Tamariuchi, who the foundation honored in 2015, said the new equipment and training has helped immensel. “The ares took what happened to them and turned one life lost so that others ma e saved,” Tamariuchi said. “These gus went 110 percent. Without them we’d e still ack in the tone Age.” The foundation raised $20,000 last ear to put a ca on the rescue oat to protect electronic equipment from the elements and install a platform so lifeguards could get ack aoard without having to clim up the propellers, Laura said. The foundation had refurished the oat previousl with new motors, and provided a replacement trailer. The total cost was $38,500, ut since the foundation was ale to raise more than half the mone, it spurred the Count Council to kick in the rest from its contingenc fund, Laura said. Hawaii Island’s unique geograph adds to the cost of emergenc services. The island spans 4,000 square miles with thousands of acres of wilderness, peaks that get snow in the winter and remote, alluring coastlines. Nathan agle/Civil eat
Frank are, left, and his wife, Laura Maller-are, stand with Kona re ghters Tro Gison Jr., Matt Loper and Matt Ho.
“The could have a call to rescue a snowoarder or oogie oarder and then within minutes a diver or hunter,” Laura said. With a population of just 200,000 people, the count doesn’t have a huge tax ase to generate funding. Unlike in some places on the mainland that have taxes that go speci call to emergenc services, Hawaii leaves it to the discretion of the count councils and the Legislature. The Hawaii Count Fire Department’s udget this ear is $33.7 million, which is similar to last ear’s. The mergenc Medical ervices’ udget is $13.4 million and the West Hawaii Ocean afet udget is $555,000, said attalion Chief Gerald Kosaki, who oversees special operations and the lifeguards.
“The were doing it with duct tape and dental ퟀ�oss.” — Frank are When the ares formed their foundation two decades ago, ocean safet was part of the parks and recreation department and receiving aout $2,200 for equipment and other needs. “The were doing it with duct tape and dental ퟀ�oss,” Frank said. “The gus’ swimming suits were disintegrating.” Things have improved since ocean safet was moved under the Fire Department, ut Kosaki said it remains a challenge to nd the mone to meet their demands.
“Although we do have a departmental udget that is allocated for the purchase of equipment and training, man times our needs far exceed this amount, as with this ear’s request to refurish the rescue oat at the Kailua Fire tation that exceeded $38,500,” he said. Kosaki, who has een in his current position for the past seven ears, has enjoed working with the ares. “The are such amazing people with hearts of gold,” he said. Nathan agle/Civil eat
attalion Chief Gerald Kosaki sas the re ghters and lifeguards’ needs exceed what the count udget provides.
ean Gallagher, a lawer-turned-lifeguard who retired last month, rought some of the issues to the ares’ attention earl on. Rescue sur oards, which lifeguards ma use a dozen times a da at popular eaches like Kahaluu, were losing their laminate and ecoming hazardous to use. “The get hammered the sun and the lava the have to travel over sometimes,” he said.
Gallagher met the ares for the rst time aout possil holding a run-swim race to raise mone for new equipment. That plan fell through due to liailit issues, ut he said Laura told him not to worr ecause “the are Foundation was going to e our anta Claus.”
“That’s our communit. That’s Hawaii.” — Laura Mallerare Laura, who was working at her husand’s dental practice at the time, told some of her patients aout the issue facing lifeguards. the end of the week she said she had raised enough mone for new sur oards, megaphones, inoculars and automated external de rillators. “That’s our communit,” she said. “That’s Hawaii. I’m sure if we were to do this on the other islands it would e similar.” The Fire Department was hesitant at rst, she said, as it didn’t want to e “overreaching” or have the pulic know how thin it was stretched. ut it soon came to support the foundation’s e orts, a partnership has evolved.
Courtes: Laura Maller-are
Frank are, left, and his wife Laura Maller-are raised mone through their foundation to u new rescue oards, megaphones and other equipment for Hawaii Count lifeguards.
Laura has had conversations with re chiefs and pulic safet advocates on other islands aout expanding the foundation or setting up something similar. The’re supportive, she said, ut the foundation’s success has resulted from a sustained commitment, and she just hasn’t found that private individual who’d e ale to devote all the time needed to make it work. Foundations and online fundraisers are often set up after tragic accidents in the islands, which happen frequentl. Hawaii’s visitor-drowning rate is 13 times the national average and 10 times the rate of local residents. ut man of those e orts zzle out after raising a little mone. Laura, 69, and Frank, 74, have talked aout hiring an executive secretar to run the foundation and possil expand it. As of now, there are no paid emploees — all of the mone raised goes to the Fire Department’s needs. “We’re arel ale to get it done here,” Frank said. “It’s not what we’re trained in doing. If ou need anthing in dentistr or dental hgiene, we’re our gus. ut this is a full-time jo for Laura and I.”
Nathan agle/Civil eat
Laura Maller-are poses for a photo in a Kona re station after talking stor with re ghters David Mahon, Lle Tamariuchi, Dust Frechette, Helako Hedlund, hawn Watson and rian Cushnie.
The Hawaii Communit Foundation took the ares under its wing to help get their foundation up and running. “We were totall a charit case,” Laura said. “We were just a couple of parents who lost a kid. We had no clue what to do. We did not know how to set up a foundation.” Ten ears later, the ares knew enough to ecome independent and estalish their own nonpro t. eond raising mone to u equipment and pa for training in specialized rescue scenarios, the ares also lend their voices. The most recent push is for lifeguards at Kua a at Kekaha Kai tate Park. It’s currentl unguarded and falls under state jurisdiction. The each has seen a signi cant increase in visitors since the state improved an access road.
Courtes: Andrew mith/Flickr
The ares plan to ack a renewed push in the Legislature to fund lifeguards at Kua a, an unguarded each that was the site of a drowning earlier this month.
“People don’t know how dangerous it is,” Laura said. What once was a quiet place almost exclusivel frequented locals who know the ocean conditions now sees a stream of rental cars carring tourists each da. The a is highlighted in guideooks and online travel sites as a must-see attraction and people line up in the morning to go to what’s declared on the wesite TripAdvisor to e “one of the most eautiful eaches in the world.” rad O’Gara, a 59-ear-old Washington man, apparentl drowned while swimming there Jan. 12. Fire ghters were 15 minutes awa. standers pulled him out of the water after nding him face down. Medical personnel who were on vacation and happened to e at the each performed CPR until the Fire Department’s rst unit arrived. He was pronounced dead at Kona Hospital.
Nathan agle/Civil eat
A Kahaluu lifeguard station has a new PA sstem courtes of the ares’ foundation.
Thirt minutes earlier, a 64-ear-old visitor from West Virginia was found face down in the water at Hapuna each. This each also falls under state jurisdiction ut the count has a contract with the state to sta it with lifeguards. Water safet oퟜ�cers rescued him using full spinal precautions and performed CPR, Kosaki said. He had regained his pulse and started reathing on his own the time an amulance arrived from the outh Kohala Fire tation. He’s alive toda, ut ma have some neurological damage, the chief said. tate Reps. Cind vans and Nicole Lowen and en. Josh Green — all of whom represent constituents on the ig Island — have introduced ills to put a lifeguard tower at Kua a and sta it. The estimated cost is $321,696. The legislation sas three other people have drowned there since 2008, 10 people have su ered spinal-cord injuries and man others have een rescued standers.
Nathan agle/Civil eat
Frank are and his wife Laura Maller-are stand outside the West Hawaii Fire Training Center that was recentl dedicated in honor of their son, Daniel are.
Laura said she testi es on the ills, ut the legislation for Kua a has failed to pass in recent ears. In 2015, a ill to fund salaries and ene ts for lifeguards at Kua a cleared the House ut died in the enate. Lawmakers opened their 2017 session two weeks ago and will e working on ills over the next few months. “Frank and I started this foundation to help save lives and to make it more feasile to save lives,” Laura said. “It seems irresponsile to me for the state to spend all this mone on the travel industr ut not to save their lives.” With the 20-ear anniversar of the Daniel R. are Memorial Foundation coming up later this ear, the e ort has come full circle in at least one wa. Laura said she recentl received $25,000 from the Karakin Foundation that will e used in part to replace the rappelling ropes that the ares had paid for out of their own pocket after their son died.
For re ghter Dust Frechette, the foundation’s work “just keeps getting etter.” He said re ghters and lifeguards understand the inherent risk to their jos ut that the oost from the foundation helps them e more e ective and safer. It also improves morale. “The past is helping the future,” he said.
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Aout the Author Nathan agle
Nathan agle is a reporter for Civil eat. You can reach him email at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @nathaneagle. Use the R feed to suscrie to Nathan agle's posts toda
1 31 2017 civil beat how a big island family's tragedy is saving lives today