'A survivor of social media misdirection': Tourist who fell 1,000 feet speaks out

A California tourist who fell 1,000 feet on a dangerous off-limits hike on Oahu in December is sharing his story, according to a press release from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.

California-based Ian Snyder, 34, was trekking the Koolau Summit Trail – a steep and challenging hike that's closed for being considered too dangerous – alone. He wants to warn others about the risks of following social media travel content. The Koolau Summit Trail is notorious for its narrow paths, steep ridges and inclement weather.

Following a map he saw online, Snyder ventured onto a risky path and subsequently fell to the base of a waterfall.

He lay there "in and out of consciousness" for three days, drinking stream water until he was rescued by a helicopter crew from the Honolulu Fire Department, the release said. Emergency responders were able to locate Snyder using his cell phone's last location.

"Honestly, the need for first responders and the risks they take, sadly, did not cross my mind," Snyder said in a statement. "I wasn’t thinking, what happens if I need to be rescued? I thought it was going to be a normal day hike. That’s in my mind now to consider before heading out."

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Although he had bruises and broken bones, Snyder has largely recovered, though he now experiences double vision in his right eye and wears an eyepatch.

Ian Snyder was visiting Oahu from California when he went on a dangerous hike he read about online alone.
Ian Snyder was visiting Oahu from California when he went on a dangerous hike he read about online alone.

"Don’t rely on non-trusted sources of information, as there’s loads of misinformation and misdirection online," said Curt Cottrell, DLNR Division of State Parks administrator, in a statement. The state manages trails under its Nā Ala Hele Trail and Access Program, and people can see which trails are closed and why online.

A quick search on Google comes up with blogs and social media content describing how aspiring hikers can navigate illegal hikes in Hawaii with the promise of incredible views and waterfalls. However, these trails are closed for safety concerns or trespassing through private property. Yet many people still take the risk, often hopping over people's fences in the night.

In March of last year, another hiker on the Koolau Summit Trail accidentally fell from a 100-foot cliff and had to be rescued by the HFD with a helicopter. He was transported to the hospital in serious condition.

Because illegal hiker rescues are so common in Hawaii, last year, a bill was proposed to make people pay for their own rescues. Airlifts can cost up to $2,500 an hour and usually take around two hours.

"We are grateful to have Ian, a survivor of social media misdirection, spread this message," Cottrell said. "Reducing the danger of misinformation on social media will keep our hikers and our first responders, safer."

Kathleen Wong is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Hawaii. You can reach her at kwong@usatoday.com.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hawaii tourist warns against illegal hikes after 1,000-foot fall