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Lost hiker located at daybreak

MEDIA RELEASE

Park rangers and a helicopter pilot rescued a 76-year-old man early Friday who got lost the previous day near Puu Huluhulu in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Zigui Yuan, 76, of China, spent an uncomfortable and chilly night on an old lava field after getting lost near Puu Huluhulu cinder cone, where there is little or no cell phone reception.

His wife, Paulili Yuan, reported him missing at 8 p.m. Thursday. She told rangers the couple and a female friend had been hiking together Thursday morning, when her husband separated from the group at the Puu Huluhulu trailhead, and headed east toward Napau Crater.

The two women returned to the trailhead junction at the Mauna Ulu parking lot at 11:30 a.m. and waited for the man.

At approximately 7 p.m., Yuan attempted to contact his wife by phone, but the call failed. The women then drove to Thurston Lava Tube and reported him missing to Park Ranger John Moraes.

Rangers Moraes and John Broward executed a search in the vicinity of Puu Huluhulu in the dark, using powerful handheld spotlights to illuminate the rough lava landscape, while Ranger Andrew Sanford patrolled Chain of Craters Road for the missing man.

At 1 a.m., the effort was suspended until daybreak, when ground and air crews resumed the search. Helicopter pilot David Okita spotted Yuan approximately 660 feet (200 meters) southwest of Puu Huluhulu.

Okita and Park Ranger Jon Makaike landed, and retrieved Yuan. He was cold, dehydrated and exhausted, but had no major injuries, and declined further medical treatment.

Yuan was reunited with his wife at 6:30 a.m. Friday.

Yuan, who speaks very little English, told rangers through his wife that he kept hiking across the sharp, jagged lava until it became dark and he could no longer see the rock pile trail markers.

He took shelter against the wind in a small depression in the old lava flows, and waited for daylight.

“Mr. Yuan made the right decision to hunker down for the night,” said Broward, Search and Rescue (SAR) coordinator at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. “This area is riddled with unstable ground, hidden earth cracks, deep craters, and sharp and brittle lava. He could have been seriously injured if he continued trying to find his way out in the dark.”

Park rangers remind visitors that the best way to avoid potentially serious incidents is to plan ahead and prepare. A full range of hiking tips and other safety-related information is available on the park’s website at www.nps.gov/havo, and by asking park rangers.

This was the park’s 14th SAR incident this year. There were 26 SAR incidents in 2012.

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