Man feared killed by flash flood survives

  • 11/09/2015
Man feared killed by flash flood survives

By 3 News online staff

A Hawaiian man hit by a wall of water from a flash flood at a waterfall had his friends fearing he'd died, and were surprised when they saw him resurface from the white water below.

Sean Steininger's ordeal was filmed by a drone and it's perhaps the prime example of the dangers of flash floods which come with no warning.

The 27-year-old was with five others on the Commando waterfall hike last week and were about halfway when it started to rain.

Renee Lusano, who has documented the incident on her blog, says the group came across a small to medium-sized stream which they needed to cross to get to a beach.

"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," she says.

That's when the torrent of water crept up on them.

"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."

Ms Lusano, who was visiting from Los Angeles, told ABC News she'd assumed he'd died.

"He was nowhere to be seen, so I just assumed he was somewhere in the water below the waterfall.

"It is miraculous he survived because the force and the aeration of the waterfall; he could've easily hit the bottom where he was."

She says Mr Steininger eventually surfaced and was "safely(ish) on the same side of the water I was".

The group climbed to higher ground where the met another hiker on the trail who decided to call emergency services.

A rescue helicopter was sent to pick the group up, but it wasn't their first job of the day – Ms Lusano says they'd also airlifted six others who were further downstream.

She said she'd earlier heard there might be a flash flood on the news, but not for Maui or for that particular day.

She thanked those who rescued the group and hoped their story would help prevent the need for similar rescues in the future.

3 News