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Bridegroom Slips Over Maui Cliff to His Death

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Times Staff Writer

James Donald Davis and Linda Palmer, both 29, from Anaheim and married less than a week, had chosen the Hawaiian Islands for their honeymoon, and like many tourists, they were driving the narrow winding road through Maui’s rain forest to see the sights along the northern coast.

The sights are spectacular--dense, green jungle, rushing streams and tall waterfalls plunging over cliffs to the sea.

It was when they stopped Friday afternoon to see one of the waterfalls that the tragedy and ordeal began, according to the story that Palmer, the survivor, gave Maui police.

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The couple, near Keanae, about 22 miles east of Kahului, stopped to admire West Wailua Iki Falls, which plunges 150 feet into a stream and pond. Palmer was sitting on one side of the falls at the top, Davis on the other, when Davis stood up to photograph the scene.

Palmer said that her husband “lost his footing” at the cliff’s edge, according to Sgt. William Fernandez. He fell, and as Palmer watched, he bounced once or twice against the sheer face of the cliff, hit the rocks at the foot of the waterfall, then fell into the water and disappeared.

She Climbed Down

Palmer, using the vegetation on the cliff as foot and hand holds, began to climb down in hopes of helping her husband, Fernandez said.

She made it perhaps 50 feet before she, too, fell.

“She remembers falling, and everything blacked out, and next thing she remembers, she woke up on the bottom,” Fernandez said. “She did not fall in the water.”

Palmer, reportedly suffering from broken ribs and other injuries, could find no trace of her husband and could not climb the cliff back to the road. Instead, she swam to the far side of the pond, where she could be seen from the road, and waited for help, Fernandez said.

She waited an estimated 1 hours until 2:45 p.m. when a driver stopped, shouted down to her asking whether she needed help, and she signaled “yes.”

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A rescue team from the Maui County Fire Department airlifted Palmer from the scene, and other teams began the search for Davis.

By darkness at about 8 p.m., the search was suspended. After it was resumed Saturday morning, Davis’ body was found by divers beneath a ledge about 30 feet underwater.

“The water was very murky and it was raining, just pouring,” said Fire Capt. Gerald Brown. “This is one of the more treacherous gulches in Keanae. All of the streams empty into it.”

Police said Sunday that an autopsy indicated Davis died from the fall rather than from drowning.

Body Identified

Palmer, recuperating at Maui Memorial Hospital in Wailuku, identified the body from photographs shown to her by police.

Beverly Perera, a nursing supervisor at the hospital, said on Sunday that Palmer was still too distraught to give further accounts of the tragedy. She said, however, that Palmer’s physical condition was “satisfactory.”

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