Kauai: Paying for Your Own Rescue?

Jun 17, 2015

Credit Rick McCharles / Flickr

When adventurers find themselves in trouble on Kauai, rescue personnel are on call to help.  But at what point does a person’s own negligence make it reasonable to require them to pay the cost of their rescue?  That’s a question Kaua‘i’s County Council is considering. We get more on the story from HPR contributor Scott Giarman on Kaua‘i.

Kauai County Councilman Mason Chock is no stranger to rescuing people in trouble.  He’s a former firefighter and he’s aware of the costs involved.  Now he’s supporting a bill that would require some people who are rescued to reimburse the County for a portion of that cost.

The bill is aimed at individuals whose actions or omissions constitute an intentional disregard for safety putting them in situations where they are in need of rescue.  It would require such people to pick up the cost of fueling the County’s Air-1 rescue helicopter, associated employee overtime pay and any resulting equipment damage.  Chock asks: “If it’s raining for five days and the concierge said it’s not a good time to go out on the trail and they disregard the signs, at what point do we hold people accountable for their actions?”

Critics say it would be difficult to prove a person’s own negligence made their rescue necessary.  And they point out they don’t want people to put their lives in danger by hesitating to call for help when they need it for fear of being billed for the service.  But Chock insists a line needs to be drawn saying “We need people to take a little better look at how they’re making their decisions.”

The Council unanimously passed the bill on its first reading earlier this month.  Next up is a public hearing on July 1st, with a final decision sometime later.