Flash floods are one of the most powerful and therefore most dangerous things you can encounter outdoors. In this terrifying video, a group of hikers in Maui’s jungle is swept away.
“The weather the past few days in Hawaii had been rainy on and off,” Renee Lusano tells us. “We started the drive to Hana and stopped early on to do this waterfall hike called ‘Commando’.”
“About halfway up the 2 mile hike it started to rain, but we thought that if we arrived at the waterfall and the water was running too fast, we could decide then not to swim. After a longer than expected hike, we heard the waterfall and arrived at a small to medium flowing stream. To get to the beach of the swimming hole we crossed a 6 foot wide stream of no more than knee deep water, and walked upstream just a minute to the beach. We stripped down to our swimsuits, I blew up a floatie tube, and set up my drone. Sean and AJ climbed up to the waterfall to prepare to jump, and I had my drone flying overhead to get the shot of them jumping. AJ was on the rocks halfway up the fall and Sean was hanging out on a big rock in the middle of the stream at the top of the 30-foot waterfall.”
“Then suddenly without warning there was an enormous rush of water coming over the waterfall, it had to have been instantly 50 times as much water rushing over, and the water was flowing fast. What caught my eye was the massive volume of water at the bottom of the fall churning over the surface of the pool, created by the power and volume of water that suddenly appeared. Those of us on the beach screamed to each other ‘WHERE’S SEAN?!?!’ There was no other option in my mind than that I had just seen our friend disappear and be killed, and there was nothing we could do about it. The water was rushing to the beach like a big wave to shore and we scrambled to grab our backpacks and cameras from getting washed away.”
“The drone was recording, and it captured the entire incident. As I climbed barefoot up the dense and soft, steep hillside of vines and grass and thick plant stalks I struggled to squeeze my way through while carrying my big Think Tank drone backpack on my back and holding my drone controller in one hand. Sean had reappeared from going over the waterfall and was safely(ish) on the same side of the water as I was.”
“Once safely on the top of the hill, Kevin the hiker we met on the trail, decided to call 911. The operator was able to get his location from GPS and description and then told him “you’re not getting back out, stay there and we’ll come get you”. We waited for less than an hour up on that hill before a helicopter arrived, flying back and forth over the river looking for us. Just as we thought they spotted us, they left again for about 30 minutes and we feared they hadn’t actually seen us. I flew my drone up and down just over the trees as I heard a helicopter in the area, just in case it might help them spot us. They were headed straight for us, with a rescue guy in a hanging basket.”
“The helicopter overhead felt like an enormous drone, the wind from the propellers was so strong it felt like it could blow us away. I had never been in a helicopter (much less took a ride in a basket hanging from a helicopter). The helicopter set down the basket and the rescue guy jumped out and helped 2 of us into the basket at a time. Sarah was terrified of going into the helicopter basket and went first with Kevin. When it returned just a few minutes later, I climbed in with Noah, and then we were gently lifted up and away. I recorded the ride on my iPhone, the landscape was so lush and green from above, with a nasty brown river tearing through the green. I felt like I was the camera being carried on my drone, it felt amazing. The basket landed as gently as it was lifted, right to where we had parked to begin our hike.