Wednesday | December 13, 2017
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Police ID woman who died in Wailuku River

Police have identified a 62-year-old woman who died Saturday after being swept downstream in the Wailuku River in Hilo as Gladys F. Novinger of Spring Valley, Calif.

Novinger and a 61-year-old man disappeared about 100 yards above Rainbow Falls, according to witnesses. Police have not officially identified the man, but the Tribune-Herald has confirmed he is Novinger’s husband, George T. Novinger.

The couple owns Vineyard Hacienda, a boutique hacienda-style vacation house with a Bordeaux wine grape vineyard in Rancho San Diego, Calif.

According to the Vineyard Hacienda website, Gladys Novinger was born in Peru and George Novinger is a retired U.S. State Department diplomat.

George Novinger has not yet been located and search efforts were suspended as of Sunday afternoon due to dangerous conditions. The search was resumed Monday but heavy rains caused it to be suspended at mid-morning. The county helicopter resumed flying at 3 p.m. Monday, scanning the Wailuku shoreline.

If the missing man isn’t discovered Monday, according to Fire Battalion Chief Mattias Kusch, said the search will resume Tuesday, weather permitting.

Police and fire personnel responded to Rainbow Falls at 12:39 p.m. Saturday following the report of a couple who fell into the water while crossing the river above the falls, police said in a Monday statement.

The woman was found in the pool below the falls and extricated by county helicopter. Hawaii Fire Department Battalion Chief Matthias Kusch said the woman wasn’t breathing and had no pulse. She was taken by ambulance to Hilo Medical Center where she was pronounced dead at 4:25 p.m.

Criminal Investigation Section detectives have classified the investigation into Gladys Novinger’s death as an unattended death. An autopsy was conducted Monday morning, but the exact cause of her death is being deferred pending toxicology results.

Anyone who may have witnessed the incident or have any other information about it is asked to call the police non-emergency line at 935-3311 or contact Detective Dean Uyetake at 961-2379 or

This story will be updated in Tuesday’s Tribune-Herald.

Email John Burnett at


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