Maui Seven Sacred Pools Accidents
There is nothing quite like exploring the great outdoors in Maui. From beaches and the ocean to mountains and waterfalls, there is something for everyone on our island. Yet these amazing attractions also come with dangers – including at the famed Seven Sacred Pools. Located in East Maui, the Seven Sacred Pools – or the Oheo Pools – are one of the most popular destinations on the island.
These pools are a magical place to swim and hike, but they have also been home to many accidents. From slipping and falling to drowning in the rushing water, far too many residents and tourists have suffered serious or even fatal injuries at the Oheo Gulch. In some situations, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the government if you suffer an injury at the Maui Seven Sacred Pools. If the government fails to take action to protect visitors from known dangers – or to warn of those known hazards – it may be held responsible for your losses. A skilled Hawaii personal injury lawyer can help you determine your rights and options for pursuing a legal claim.
What Are the Seven Sacred Pools?
Located within Haleakalā National Park, Kīpahulu District, the Seven Sacred Pools are a collection of more than seven freshwater pools and waterfalls. The proper name for these pools is “‘Oheʻo.” This park is located 12 miles east of the town of Hāna, along the famed Hana Highway. The ‘Oheʻo Gulch is a valley that was cut by a stream through the rainforest. As it travels through the valley to the ocean along the Kīpahulu coastline, the stream is punctuated by plunge pools and cascading waterfalls. Many of these pools are readily accessible, which makes them popular for swimming and snorkeling. Hiking trails throughout the valley make it a great destination for hikers, too.
These pools are easily accessed by cars, with parking lots located at the trailheads just past Hāna. Each year, thousands of locals and tourists visit the ‘Oheʻo Gulch to hike, swim and simply marvel at the beauty of nature. The National Park Service (NPS) prohibits jumping from the cliffs, ledges and bridges into the pools. However, these rules are not typically enforced and are often ignored. The NPS warns about the possibility of flash flooding; slippery rocks; high water; flow, rock fall and water quality issues; and fall hazards from overlooks, ledges, jumps and dives. Unsurprisingly, each year, many visitors to the Seven Sacred Pools do not heed these warnings and are hurt in a variety of ways.
What Types Of Accidents Happen At The Seven Sacred Pools?
Many injuries – and even some fatalities – are reported each year at the Seven Sacred Pools. At least nine people have died at ‘Oheʻo, and many more have suffered injuries such as broken bones or serious cuts.
These injuries often arise from falls, drowning and even falling rocks. One of the most tragic accidents to occur at ‘Oheʻo Gulch occurred in 2003, when tourists from Kentucky were visiting the Haleakalā National Park. As the family hiked along the Pipiwai Trail, they stopped at Makahiku Falls and decided to cross the gulch stream to get to the bottom of the falls.
As the father and his daughter crossed, a flash flood swept them away – killing them both. The survivors of this tragedy sued, arguing that the NPS failed to adequately warn visitors of the dangers of flash flooding in this area. Ultimately, the NPS settled the wrongful death lawsuit for $5 million. Today, the NPS will close the pools and waterfalls if the system shows warning signs of a flash flood.
Flooding is not the only possible danger at the Seven Sacred Pools. In 2011, an 8-year-old girl was killed by a rock that fell while she was with her family at Waimoku falls.
Rockslides at the Pools of ‘Oheʻo have also caused injuries to park visitors. The many ledges on the trails along ‘Oheʻo Gulch are also incredibly dangerous. In 2014, a Texas woman died after falling 15 feet down a ledge and into a pool below. More recently, a man died in 2019 after jumping off a bridge into the pools. Despite these very real dangers, the Maui Seven Sacred Pools remain open to the public and have minimal supervision. While there are signs that warn about falling rocks and prohibit jumping, without anyone to enforce these rules, visitors often ignore them. Too often, this leads to catastrophic injuries and death.
Can I File A Lawsuit For A Seven Sacred Pools Accident?
Depending on the facts of your case, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the NPS for injuries suffered at the Seven Sacred Pools. This type of claim may be based on your own injuries or the losses that you suffered when a loved one died in an accident. Under Hawaiian law, there is a special procedure for filing a lawsuit against a government entity, such as a state park. If you are filing a claim against the NPS – a federal agency – then the case may be brought pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).
There are special rules and deadlines for filing FTCA claims that are different from private lawsuits. The FTCA allows an individual to sue the government for an injury to themselves or their property if the United States would be liable in a personal injury lawsuit if it were a person. In other words, if you could sue someone for your injuries based on the facts of your case, then you may also be able to sue the NPS for your injuries under the FTCA. There are multiple theories under which you may be able to file a lawsuit under the FTCA for a Seven Sacred Pools accident.
For example, if the NPS knew of a specific danger and failed to warn visitors – or to take any steps to reduce the possibility of harm – then it may be held liable for any injuries that occur. These types of cases can, however, be incredibly complicated, which is why it is important to consult with a skilled Maui personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after your accident.
How Long Do I Have To File A Lawsuit For A Seven Sacred Pools Accident?
The Seven Sacred Pools is part of the NPS. If you plan to file a claim against the NPS, then you must do it within two years of the accident or injury. The FTCA has a two-year statute of limitations for lawsuits. Whether you are on vacation or are a resident of Maui, it is important to consult with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. These types of cases can be complicated, so it is critical to get the process started as soon as possible.
Can You Sue A National Park For An Accident?
Yes. If an act or failure to act by the NPS led to an injury or death, then you may be able to file a lawsuit under the FTCA. While the federal government is generally immune from lawsuits under a doctrine known as sovereign immunity, the FTCA offers a narrow opportunity for injury victims to sue the government – including a national park. Because these types of claims involve a question of federal law, you will need to hire an attorney who has experience handling these cases. In Maui, contact us at Menzer Law Firm, PLLC, to schedule a free consultation about a Seven Sacred Pools accident claim.
Help For Maui Accident Victims
If you are hurt in any type of accident, whether in a national park, in a state park or even on private property, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. One of our seasoned Maui personal injury lawyers can help you determine your rights. At Menzer Law, we are dedicated to helping injury victims get the money that they need to move forward with their lives after an accident. We offer free initial consultations and never charge a fee unless we recover money for you. To learn more, contact our law firm by calling 808.427.5752 or filling out our online contact form.