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Aerial search called off for UNL student missing in Hawaii; ground effort continues
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Aerial search called off for UNL student missing in Hawaii; ground effort continues

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Samuel Martinez

Samuel Martinez

Search and rescue teams in Kauai on Tuesday resumed on-ground efforts to find a 23-year-old University of Nebraska-Lincoln student who went missing.

The Kauai Police Department announced Monday that the aerial search had been called off for Samuel Martinez, a microbiology student at UNL who traveled to Kauai alone May 12 for a two-week camping and hiking trip. 

Martinez's family hasn't heard from him since a few hours after his flight landed in Hawaii. He was reported missing to the Lincoln Police Department on May 27 after he failed to arrive home as scheduled.

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Investigators on the island say the last ping from Martinez's cellphone came at about 8:20 p.m. May 12 near Waimea and Koke'e state parks. Air and ground rescue teams from five Kauai-based agencies searched several beaches, trails, ridges and canyons in the region Sunday and Monday. 

Extensive land and air searches began Sunday with a focus on Koke'e and Waimea state parks, The Garden Island reported.

A fire helicopter checked inaccessible western and northern regions of the island, the newspaper reported.

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“Unfortunately, we haven’t found any sign of Mr. Martinez throughout our searches," Investigative Services Bureau Assistant Chief Bryson Ponce said in a Kauai Police Department news release. 

"We also haven’t encountered anyone who has accurately identified him and his whereabouts. At this point, there are several possibilities that could have taken place, especially on an island with dangerous terrain in places like Waimea Canyon and Koke‘e State Park trails, but we are still hoping for the best.”

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Volunteers from Kauai Search and Rescue planned to continue ground search efforts Tuesday. 

LPD Officer Erin Spilker said all reports relating to Martinez were forwarded to law enforcement in Kauai and that LPD "will continue to work with the Kauai Police Department should they request any further assistance."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7223 or

On Twitter @andrewwegley

The Associated Press contributed to this story 


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A Kansas City, Missouri, native, Andrew Wegley joined the Journal Star as breaking news reporter after graduating from Northwest Missouri State University in May 2021.

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