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Man dead after zipline accident in Paukaa mauka Wednesday (Sept 21)

Honolii Stream and the Honolii Mountain Outpost zipline operations site in Paukaa. Photo special to Hawaii 24/7.

Honolii Stream and the Honolii Mountain Outpost zipline operations site in Paukaa. Photo special to Hawaii 24/7.

KapohoKine Adventures store in downtown Hilo. Photo by Baron Sekiya | Hawaii 24/7

KapohoKine Adventures store in downtown Hilo. Photo by Baron Sekiya | Hawaii 24/7

Video featuring the zipline operation. Via YouTube

By Hawaii 24/7 Staff

Fire/rescue crews report they responded to a 9:39 a.m. alarm Wednesday (Sept. 21) to the KapohoKine Adventures zipline attraction in the Paukaa mauka area for an accident involving two men.

One man was reported to be dead at the scene while another with critical injuries was treated at the scene by medics and flown out via Chopper Two to Hilo Medical Center.

Police are investigating the cause of the accident.

A Maui man died and an Ohio man was critically injured in a zipline accident Wednesday morning in Paukaa, according to a statement from Big Island police.

The men were employed by Experiential Resources Inc., a Maui company that builds and maintains ziplines. They had just made an adjustment to the line and were in the process of testing it.

The 36-year-old Maui man had traveled about halfway across the 2,300-foot span when a tower collapsed and he fell approximately 200 feet onto a dry, rocky riverbed.

The 43-year-old Ohio man, who was standing on the tower, fell about 30 feet. He was taken to Hilo Medical Center, where he was listed in critical condition with multiple internal injuries.

The name of the man who died is being withheld pending notification of his family. An autopsy has been ordered to determine his exact cause of death.

Hawaii 24/7 has received reports that KapohoKine Adventures opened to the public last week and workers were brought in from Maui to make the ride faster, in response to customer feedback.

The incident occurred along Honolii Stream, 3.8 miles up from Kulana Street.

Police are continuing their investigation into the accident.

Statement from KapokoKine Adventures:

Experiential Resources, Inc (ERi), the construction company contracted by Lava Hotline in Paukaa, experienced a tragic construction accident today that resulted in two injuries, one of which was fatal.

There were no Lava Hotline employees affected.

As KapohoKine Adventures doesn’t have direct involvement in either the build or operation of the Paukaa property, we have no further information or details on the accident, but additional information will be made available by ERi.

KapohoKine Adventures offers our sincerest condolences to the entire ERi and LavaHotline ohanas, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the loved ones of those affected.

We appreciate the outpouring of support received from the community through phone calls and emails, and will share all of them with everyone directly affected, and we ask everyone to join us in respecting ERi’s request to honor the privacy and dignity of the affected families during this difficult time.

Gary Marrow, Owner KapohoKine Adventures

Mayor Billy Kenoi released the following statement on the death of one person and the injuries suffered by another in an accident at a zipline facility:

“I want to express our concern and condolences to the families of both men involved in this tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families.”

“We will conduct a careful, thorough review to determine all of the facts in this case. We need to know exactly what happened and why, and we need to know exactly what went wrong. When we have completed that review and the facts are known, we will release our findings publicly.”

Statement from ERi president John White and ERi owner Todd Domeck:

We are deeply saddened to report that a construction accident occurred today at Lava Hotline just outside Hilo. Experiential Resources Inc. (ERi) was working on a new course, which isn’t open to the public yet.

The accident caused a fatality of one of our employees and critically injured another.

No other employees of the construction company or Lava Hotline employees were injured.

The ERi family extends our heartfelt sympathy and aloha to the family and friends of our employees.

Looking slightly mauka at the Honolii Mountain Outpost site with Honolii Stream.

Looking slightly mauka at the Honolii Mountain Outpost site with Honolii Stream.

7 Responses to “Man dead after zipline accident in Paukaa mauka Wednesday (Sept 21)”

  1. Micah Miller says:

    What a tradgedy! If only these contractors had an engineer to approve their plans. Apparently zip lines can be installed and permitted without engineering oversight and approval. They were in lands that had never before been exploited by man, possibly the soil conditions were not suitable to anchor tall towers into the ground properly. There should have been some oversight by the County, or an engineering certification to insure their safe construction.
    The Kapohokine Adventures video on shows they have been open for a week, and he says their customers complained that the line was”too slow’ so they tightened it up, and consequently a tower fell down.

    • lonnie jones says:

      those disparaging the industry have spoken without proper knowledge. Look at ACCT standards and you’ll see that there are industry standards that adhere to ANSI and OSHA requirements.
      I know the company and the ppl who built this–this is going to be an act of nature or equipement failure at the root but not the “engineering”.

  2. John Thee says:

    little information available on the construction or maintainence of ziplines

  3. Canopy tours and zip line tours have only recently come to the U.S. The oldest have been in operation no more than 6 or 7 years. So until recently, in most states there has been no pressing need for governmental oversight and regulation. Where such oversight exists, it has usually fallen to the agencies that already concern themselves with the safety of challenge course installations. Except in a very few states, no commercial-zip-line-tour-specific standards and regulations have been written into legislation.

    This does not mean, however, that there are no standards. And it does not mean that the Honolii Mountain course near Hilo was built without regard to industry best practices, including carefully engineered design. Commercial zip line tour builders and operators have every incentive to install safe, well-engineered structures. If they don’t, they won’t find insurance. And, of course, as responsible and reputable businesses, that is how they would conduct themselves in any case. Nothing is to be gained through shortcuts and shoddy operations practices that result in death or injury to clients or employees.

    I have no direct knowledge of the course at Honolii, but I am quite familiar with the course builder, ERi. They are highly experienced and well regarded. Any structures they install are carefully engineered. I am sure that the tower that failed and the zip line that it supported were constructed in accordance with a design that was vetted by a professional structural engineer. ERi, however, in my experience would not have relied solely upon engineering calculations–they would have subjected the systems and components specified in the design to rigorous field testing before using them in an installation. This would have entailed trials in which the critical parts were subjected to forces that would cause them to fail, so that ERi could be certain that the course they built was able to handle all of the stresses it was designed for and with a healthy margin of error built in.

    The towers at Honolii had to be designed to withstand the weight of tour participants, wind load, and, I imagine, earthquake tremors. They also had to support long, heavy zip lines and handle the considerable leverage that such lines can exert on the structures to which they are attached. Generally, those forces are counteracted by guy wires. Since the tower at Honolii collapsed, we know that some component or components in the system failed. There are many possibilities, including poles, guy anchors, guy cables, attachment hardware, braces, bolts, timbers, and so on. Until an investigation and analysis has been completed by the builder and by governmental officials, we can’t know.

    Whatever the cause, however, I am very certain that the existence of government regulation would not have prevented this particular accident. A company like ERi would have passed the scrutiny of any inspector with flying colors. I could be wrong, of course, but I think this accident will probably prove to be the equivalent of an airline crash in which the outcome is not a finding of operator or manufacturer error but a previously unrecognized hazard that leads to product improvement across the industry.

    At present professional builders and operators adhere to standards set by either of two industry associations, the Association for Challenge Course Technology and the Professional Ropes Course Association. They also rely heavily upon the advice and consultation of professional engineers.

    This does not mean, however, that there is resistance to governmental oversight and regulation. Indeed, builders like my company S.T.E.P.S., Inc. and our friends are joining with course operators across the country to advocate for model legislation in every state. West Virginia recently enacted a law for just that very purpose. It applies to the zip line industry the same sorts of standards and protections for builders, operators, and their customers that have long been in place for downhill ski resorts and whitewater rafting companies.

    We would very much like to see such oversight provisions put into place in Hawaii and elsewhere. There are some bad actors in the business who would be reined in and weeded out, to the benefit of the public and to the majority of builders and operators who take pride in the reliability of their operations. I doubt, though, that such legislation could have in any way prevented the accident at Honolii. The attention generated by that accident could, however, lead to the adoption of measures that will prevent other more predictable accidents from occurring in the future.

  4. Well says:


    • lonnie jones says:

      You are safer on a zip line than you are in a car, a sea doo or and especially a bike or a motorcycle.
      the only stupidity involved is in commenting on things you don’t know about…the old proverb states, “If you remain silent people may think you a fool. Open your mouth (post your comment) and you remove all doubt.”

  5. Hawaiian Born says:

    I’m sure most ziplines are designed and built to the highest standards and operate very well and I have personally seen some of these zipline designs (not particularly the Honolii one) but other ones for Hawaii and some of them seriously belong in the trash. Extremely rigorous soils testing by reputable civil and structural engineers “familiar” with the site is a necessity regardless of cost, codes and laws when lives are literally on the line (no pun intended). Building without this being done and approved is a recipe for disaster. The lands at Hamakua Coast and other areas here can have sufficient native rock and be somewhat stable in one area and can be 100 ft. deep of pure dirt in others. Having a system with excessive lateral loads where elevation, wind and rain are not properly studied, shouldn’t be built period. Hoping these simple building procedures and studies were done properly, the cause of failure will show and be determined through research and ivestigation. Very tragic. Whatever the case, its either Human error, mechanical failure and poor soil or all three that would be at fault (hypothetically suggesting). It would be interesting in knowing how the tightening of the lines to increase tension to speed up the ride is calculated and if its monitored by professional methods to be assured safe without compromising the resistance and forces of the foundation against the soils and structures sizing and forces against the foundation. We would like to know that all ziplines here and elsewhere are safe for all our kamaaina and visitors to enjoy.


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