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Kaua‘i firefighters honored for rescuing man on Christmas Day 2023

HANALEI — A Northern Michigan man who was rescued from a fall on the Kalalau Trail last year thanked his rescuers, who were recognized for their heroic efforts on Thursday morning in Hanalei.

Dave Murphy was hiking the Kalalau Trail on Kauai’s North Shore with his wife on Christmas Day 2023, when on their return, Murphy fell off the Kalalau Trail not far from Ke‘e Beach.

Kaua‘i Fire Department (KFD) firefighters with the Hanalei Fire Station recalled receiving the emergency 911 call regarding a distressed hiker late in the afternoon. The crew arrived on the scene and made contact with the Michigan visitor, who had fallen 30 feet down a vertical wall sustaining multiple injuries before landing and coming to a rest on a rocky ledge while tangled in vines about 15 feet above the valley floor.

The victim was suffering from a collapsed lung and was fading in and out of consciousness, when firefighters decided to make the decision to not airlift him out due to the high danger level to both victim and the rescue team.

Instead rescue crews immediately packaged him onto a stretcher, and began to carry the visitor on foot off the cliff face through rocky slopes covered in dense vegetation. Fire personnel set up a rope system from the trail above with a fire rescuer at the bottom onto the ledge with the victim.

He was then transferred onto an awaiting ambulance that transported him to the Wilcox Medical Center in Lihu‘e, where he was treated for a shattered clavicle and eight broken ribs. A CT scan later revealed an ‘incidental discovery’ of a mass on the victim’s kidney that required emergency surgery.

“A mass on my kidney that otherwise would have gone unnoticed if not for the first save by the rescue team, there would be no second save via upcoming surgery. The guys on the cliff with me on Christmas gave me two gifts of life that day,” said rescue victim Dave Murphy.

The four firefighters being recognized for their courageous efforts on that day are: Captain Dane Smith, Firefighter Jed Smith, Firefighter Justine Watts and Firefighter Paul Haraguchi of the Hanalei Fire Station 1.

The Murphy ‘ohana joined the event via ZOOM from Michigan and continuously thanked the firefighters for their superhuman efforts. The Hanalei Fire Department received a certificate of recognition, which was presented by KFD Chief Michael Gibson.

Gibson acknowledged his team by saying: “The specialized work that they do with rope rescues and ocean rescues is beyond belief, the scale and knowledge they have of the land and the water — I am confident that they know what they are doing. Their scale of compassion and their care for people really showed, and I am thankful and grateful for them and you (Murphy).”

“One thing I recall with certainty was repeatedly thanking them, only to hear modest replies of, “We’re just doing our jobs, No worries,” and what they amount to “just doing our jobs” for them is courageous under any other definition,” added Murphy.

Dave Murphy’s wife Sue Murphy also expressed her gratitude to the Hanalei fire team.

“I do want to extend my heartfelt thanks to all of you. It has given me a little bit more time with my husband, at the time I didn’t think that I was going to see him off that cliff, I think it is also important to note that as I was sitting there watching this— people would go by and they would say, “these guys will come through, they’re going to get your husband out, they know what they are doing, and you did! So, thank you very much,” she said.

“In terms of your Fire Chief and Captain Dane Smith, and the Hanalei crew, I simply don’t know how to say mahalo enough, whatever unfolds from here there are still a lot of health challenges but I woundn’t have a shot at it without what you did. I hope your families know how much people like myself appreciate what you do, I can’t thank you enough.”
Source: The Garden Island

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