By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
A 37-year-old Pahoa man who was seriously injured Monday when he jumped off Rainbow Falls has been transported to The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu, where he underwent surgery on Tuesday.
The incident, which has been classified by police as a public accident, occurred at about 10:30 a.m.
Capt. Richard Sherlock of Hilo Patrol Division said that the jump by Samson Perez, aka Samson Moses Kahumoku, didn’t appear to be a suicide attempt.
“It appears, per witness statements, to be an accident,” Sherlock said Tuesday. “He jumped off the falls on purpose, but not to cause harm to himself.”
Fire Captain Joe Farias said Tuesday said that responders found Perez on the banks of the Wailuku River below the falls, where he was “waving and calling for help.”
“He was airlifted out of there and transported … by (helicopter) to the Hilo Medical Center,” Farias said.
Sherlock said that Perez “had lost feeling to the lower portion of (his) body.”
A source unauthorized to comment publicly said Perez was paralyzed from the fall.
A nursing supervisor at Queen’s said Perez had “just come out of surgery” on Tuesday afternoon, but couldn’t provide additional information.
The 80-foot-high waterfall is part of the Wailuku River State Park. Department of Land and Natural Resources spokesman Randy Honebrink said in email Tuesday that jumping off cliffs or waterfalls in state parks is not illegal “unless there are signs posted indicating that the park area is a closed area under (Hawaii Administrative Rules). Such was not the case at this location.”
Honebrink said that the signs posted at Rainbow Falls, which say “Hazardous Cliff, No Jumping or Diving” and “Flash Flood,” are “general safety warning signs.”
“These are not regulatory signs — they are warning signs that simply indicate that a hazard exists and warn of the potential dangers if not heeded,” he wrote.
“Division of State Parks does not ever recommend jumping off cliffs,” he added.
Monday’s incident was not the first time someone has suffered a serious injury jumping off the picturesque waterfall above Hilo.
Ryan Meeker of Winona, Minn., then 23, broke his tailbone in a jump off the falls on Jan. 5, 2003. Meeker was also taken to Queen’s for surgery. He told a Honolulu newspaper at the time that jumping from heights into water was his hobby.
“It’s probably the last time I will jump from that height,” he said.
Perez, the son of slack-key guitarist Moses Kahumoku, has a lengthy criminal record, including violence, property and drug crimes. In 1996, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for robbery, burglary and felony theft.
On Sept. 20, 2011, he was the subject of an intensive manhunt in Hilo and was arrested after allegedly grabbing a girl’s arm early that morning in a bathroom on the campus of Hilo Union Elementary School.
Police investigated the incident as an attempted kidnapping and attempted sexual assault, but a school official described it as “a stranger on campus” and “not an attempted abduction.”
Perez was freed without being charged in that case, and the results of the police investigation were forwarded to the county prosecutor’s office, which to date has not charged Perez.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.