An Easter morning hike through the mountains of Hawaii went from idyllic to tragic when 24-year-old Nathan Stowell plunged from the trail to his death while trying to help a friend, KHON reported.
Stowell, originally from Arizona, moved to Hawaii when he was 18 to take in the sights and culture, according to KHON. He was an active hiker and worked at several businesses, including one that made an effort to hire veterans.
On Easter Sunday, Stowell was hiking the Olomana Trail in Kailua, Hawaii, a steep and challenging trail that winds up three hilly peaks. At some point on the trek, the wind blew off a friend’s hat, and Stowell offered to retrieve it, Stowell’s friend James Keener told KHON.
“Kid’s hat blew off and he told the kid, ‘Don’t get the hat. Let me get it,’ because Nathan felt he had better balance, and he fell 400 feet to his death,” Keener told the station. “He’s just an absolute amazing human being. We are just blessed to have him in our lives as long as we had him.”
Tree cover was so heavy that firefighters had to ask a hiker near the man to shake a tree so rescuers knew where to rappel down, Honolulu Fire Department Capt. Kevin Mokulehua said, according to Azfamily.com.
He was found “without a pulse and not breathing” and was flown to paramedics, where he was pronounced dead, Mokulehua told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
“I thought it was a sick April Fools joke to be honest with you. My baby brother is 24 years old and he’s dead,” Stowell’s sister Lexis Sweeney told Hawaii News Now. “My brother died doing what he loved.”
The trail does have a dangerous reputation. A profile from Honolulu Magazine calls the hike “challenging” and warns that “even experienced trekkers may find it difficult.” At its most strenuous points, ropes hang down to help hikers clamber up steep, muddy rocks.
Four people, including Stowell, have died on the trail in the last four years, reported the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
“You should be an experienced hiker. You need to have a certain amount of physical conditioning, because you are climbing almost the entire time,” Barney Griggs, a spokesperson for the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club, told Hawaii News Now.
Family and friends are still shocked at the suddenness of the loss. A GoFundMe has been established to raise money for the family to cover funeral expenses and travel to the island.
“He’d get me up at 4 a.m. and want to do a hike... We’d just talk about life, just where the future is going, him seeing the light,” Andrew Compean, Stowell’s brother told KITV. “I’m still in denial, I don’t believe that he’s gone. I can’t... Just waiting to wake up and go ‘Oh it was just a dream.’ ”