It’s 5:30 am on Saturday morning. The sun and birds have awakened me. It’s not a bad way to be awakened if you ask me. Yet, as lovely as the view is, my mind is troubled. As I see what remains of the fires on the Olowalu of the island, I think of the horrific accident that we witnessed while out hiking yesterday. It was a wake up call for all of us.
Mike (Tom’s brother), BoBo, YaYa, Rusty (the dog) and I were out hiking in the man-made forest at Olinda Park. There were some old (lavascape) caves that Mike had found when he first moved to the island. He thought the boys would like to explore them.
It was a little over a mile from the road before we hit the single-track portion of the hike. It wasn’t difficult but I kept a close eye on YaYa. There were roots and loose rocks along the way. As we made our way down, we could hear cries that sounded like they were from a young girl. It didn’t sound like she was hurt; it sounded like the whiny, tired, someone is bugging me sort of cries.
When we arrived at the bottom of the gulch we found what appeared to be two families. There was a couple with a boy about 3 years old. They left soon after we arrived, leaving us with a blonde women and four kids.
The red head and the dark-haired boys were older than YaYa and younger than BoBo. They wore matching shirts from the private school in town. The other two children were younger and both blonde like the women.
The girl was the crier. She was about 5-6 years old and was the recipient of women’s constant urging her to enter the caves with the boys. The woman’s tone would go from yelling, to condescending, to gentle, and back at ease. It didn’t take long for it to grate on my nerves.
I wanted out of there but I didn’t want to ruin the boys fun. I also didn’t want to let them out of my sight. While the caves were cool, they were also high up the rocky gulch and they made me nervous.
Before I had reached my limit, the youngest in the group had hooked up with BoBo and YaYa and was eagerly giving them the lay of the land. He was about 3-4 years old and was happy for a little attention. He had a flashlight and YaYa was comforted by both his knowledge of the caves and the light.
We explored the first two caves, found the third to small for us to enter and began contemplating our exit. There were two other caves visible on the opposite side of the gulch. One of the older two boys was eager to show us the way. Before I knew it, BoBo and him were on their way over the rocks to explore it. Mike, YaYa and I followed behind.
We reached the first of the two caves where the boy was explaining to BoBo that he should remove his shoes and socks. It was wet and muddy inside. BoBo, quick to do as he was told, was off into the cave before YaYa could get his first shoe off. Left alone with the mud and darkness, YaYa did not want to go alone, and his Mom already had her fill of caves for the day.
When BoBo and the boy returned, I said that we were done exploring caves. YaYa was very unhappy at having missed out on the cave but I had enough of the yelling and crying. My head was spinning and I couldn’t take anymore.
At that point, the youngest arrived (flashlight in hand) and went to the unexplored cave. YaYa was now protesting our leaving. He wanted to go with the boy, where there was light and an unexplored cave. But I said no and turned as YaYa put his shoes and socks back on. BoBo and Mike were ahead of me and ready to go.
Then it happened…
As turned back to check on YaYa, the boys began to slip. He slid down the side of the wall, past the roots and braches and then fell about 25 feet to the rocky bottom. I couldn’t see him land from where I was standing and was afraid that I’d find him with his head busted into pieces.
I told YaYa not to move, and felt better about leaving him when BoBo started in his direction. Then I continued down towards the boy. Mike had already arrived at his side and the boy was sitting up crying when he came into view. They woman was now making her way, with the girl crying ahead of her.
I decided that I was most helpful if I could relieve the woman of the girl and allow her to get to him more quickly. But, to my surprise, she didn’t appear to be as concerned as anyone in my family was. When we all arrived at the boy’s side, his nose was bleeding but he was awake and alert. He only complained that his head hurt. And when I told the woman that he needed to go to the hospital urgently, she dismissed it.
The woman remained unconcerned. We offered to help carry the boy out to the road, to which the woman initially refused. Within seconds of Mike walking away, and the rest of the children becoming frantic, the woman changed her mind.
It wasn’t a long hike, but it felt like eternity. We took turns carrying the boy as we climbed out and all the while the woman brought up the rear. If the girl was slowing her down, I relieved her of that again. I offered to give the girl a piggie back ride and still the woman walked as slow as molasses. Then when we hit the easier part of the trail, I watched as the boy began to fade.
I dropped back to the woman and asked her if she was scared. She said that she wasn’t, and I told her that she should be. I painted a frightening picture of what “could” be happening – why the boy was getting sleepy. She remained calm. I asked her if she was planning to take the boy to the ER. She said “yes.”
But when we loaded the boy into the car, we watched her drive in the opposite direction of the hospital. We drove towards home and, as our cell reception was restored, I called 911 and reported the indident (and her license plate) to the police.
We were all horrified by the accident, but even more horrified that any human would have so little disregard for life. Life is precious, and it can be lost in just an instant. I shudder at the thought that it could have just as easily been one of my sons. We had no business being at those caves and neither did anyone else.