Attacks fail to deter crater hikers
By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dan Nakaso
There was no indication of the random stabbings that had sent two men to the hospital just a light breeze and cloud cover to greet dozens of hikers who returned yesterday to the old abandoned tramway that leads to the top of Koko Crater.
They came in pairs, they arrived in groups and they showed up alone yesterday. And they all pushed aside reports that a 19-year-old Kalihi man had randomly stabbed two hikers less than 24 hours before at the popular hiking spot.
Many of the people who showed up yesterday consider Sunday's attack just one more senseless act of violence that could have occurred anywhere. Others vowed that they wouldn't let a single incident stop them from enjoying one of their favorite hikes.
HIKE NOT FOR EVERYONE
Keao Meyer's grandfather ran the old Koko Head Jobs Corps Center and Meyer, now 40, grew up hiking to the top of the crater, and still lives nearby in Hawai'i Kai.
In all of those hundreds of climbs to the top of Koko Crater, Meyer has heard reports of dogs dying from heat exhaustion and even had to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation himself on an overweight teenage hiker just last week.
"This hike, it's not for everyone," said Meyer, sweaty from his regular brisk, 20-minute trek to the peak.
But Meyer returned to his favorite workout yesterday morning with the belief that Sunday afternoon's attack was nothing more than a tragic but freak occurrence at the otherwise peaceful Koko Head Regional Park.
"I'm not going to let that stop me," Meyer said. "But it is sad to hear that the kind of activity can happen here, especially so close to home."
The abandoned tramway was the focus of public outrage last year when city crews installed "Keep Out" signs in February then quickly removed them following community protests.
City officials at the time said they wanted the tramway shut down out of liability fears and because of its proximity to the Koko Head Shooting Complex, which constantly sends gunshot echoes across the park.
But Sunday's attack should have no bearing on the debate over the future of the tramway, city spokesman Bill Brennan said yesterday.
"There's no rational explanation for irrational behavior," Brennan said. "It was fine the day before. It should be fine the day after."
The city runs the park but the tramway is abandoned, Brennan said, and the city technically has no "trails" in its parks inventory.
A couple of times a week, Jesse Garo, 22, drives out to Hawai'i Kai from his home in Kapolei because climbing the tramway represents "the ultimate exercise," Garo said.
He makes the climb in about 22 minutes and didn't have a care about doing it alone yesterday.
If someone should try to attack him on the trail, Garo said, "I figure I'll be in better shape."
Gary Umehira, a 55-year-old martial arts student from Salt Lake, had the same kind of attitude.
"I'm not concerned," Umehira said. "I can take care of myself."
Others, such as Laura Santi of Waimanalo and her daughter and a female cousin, didn't bring the same kind of bravado to the trail, just a sense of resolve that they weren't going to change their exercise plans because of the attack.
"It's just such a sad, sad, out-of-the-ordinary circumstance," said Santi's cousin, Judy Santi. "It could have happened anywhere."
Ford Kaiapoepoe, 20, of Waimanalo, and his best friend, Peter Yoon, 18, of Hawai'i Kai, made a New Year's resolution to climb the tramway every day.
Yoon had to work on Sunday so Kaiapoepoe headed out alone. First, Kaiapoepoe came across another hiker who said "some guy has a knife on top."
Kaiapoepoe kept going until another hiker told him that there were stabbing victims and their assailant was still on the loose.
When he returned to the base of the mountain, Kaiapoepoe saw Honolulu police officers and "I felt safe," he said.
After making more than 40 climbs to the summit so far this year, Kaiapoepoe still felt safe yesterday and so did his buddy, Yoon.
"You just can't be scared of stuff that you have no control over," Yoon said. "You just have to do it."
Reach Dan Nakaso at email@example.com.