Maui News

Vehicle Plunges Off 60-Ft Cliff at Polipoli, Maui

July 8, 2017, 7:24 AM HST
* Updated July 8, 7:29 AM
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Emergency personnel on Maui responded to the Polipoli area in Kula for a vehicle that went over a cliff while traveling down Waipoli Road with two people inside. The accident was reported at around 6:01 p.m. on Thursday, July 6, 2017, about 2.7 miles above the Aliʻi Kula Lavender Farm.

Aerial and ground photograph of Kula Forest Reserve and Polipoli Springs State Recreation Area.  File courtesy photo

The vehicle’s driver, a 27-year-old woman from Kapalua, told emergency dispatchers that after going over the cliff, she could no longer see the road and could not describe exactly where she was. A 27-year-old man visiting from New Jersey was the only other passenger.

Kula firefighters arrived in the area at 6:43 p.m. but could not immediately locate the vehicle. Firefighters activated their emergency siren so the driver and passenger could tell dispatchers whether rescuers were nearby. Fire officials say the woman wasn’t able to blast her car horn to help firefighters locate them because it was apparently damaged in the crash.

By using their emergency siren and the woman’s GPS coordinates obtained from her cell phone, fire crews located the accident scene after finding a path of flattened grass which left the roadway and led to a cliff located 50 feet away.

Shouting from the top of a 60-foot cliff, firefighters made voice contact with the male and female occupants at about 7 p.m. Firefighters could see the debris from the crash but could not actually see the two individuals or the vehicle. The victims told firefighters they made it out of the vehicle and were not seriously injured.

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Rescue personnel rappelled down the 60-foot cliff and discovered the vehicle was not at the base of the cliff, but had traveled another 50-feet and went over another 25-foot drop, landing upright at the center of a dry streambed.

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Firefighters reached the victims at 7:43 p.m. and found their injuries to be “surprisingly minor.” For safety reasons, crews chose to find an alternate route to the victims in order to bring them safely up the steep slope and used a machete to cut a path through dense vegetation.

Both victims were put in harnesses and hoisted up the steep incline, one at a time, using a system of ropes and pulleys. The woman was brought up first and was back at the roadway at 10:37 p.m., and the man was hoisted up next at 10:55 p.m.

Paramedics checked on them and cleared them of any serious injuries. Both walked away with only minor injuries and declined transport to the hospital.

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The two friends were on their way down the mountain after visiting Polipoli Spring Recreation Area when the woman said the brakes on her Toyota Sienna van faded out. Fire officials say the woman pulled off to the shoulder but her van wouldn’t stop and they went over the cliff.

A rescue crew, a hazardous materials crew, and a battalion chief from Kahului responded to the incident along with Kula firefighters.

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