Man Seriously Injured After Falling Off Kilauea Volcano Crater

May 2, 2019 Updated: May 2, 2019

A man was seriously injured after falling 70 feet down from a cliff edge at the Kīlauea volcano caldera in Hawaii, according to officials.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park officials said in a statement on May 1 that the visitor lost his footing around 6:30 p.m. and fell from a 300-foot cliff at the volcano’s caldera—a crater formed from previous volcanic activity. He was rescued by rangers and staff from the Hawaii County Fire Department and was airlifted to the Hilo Medical Center in a serious condition.

Officials said the man had climbed over a permanent metal railing at the Steaming Bluff overlook to get closer to the cliff edge.

“Visitors should never cross safety barriers, especially around dangerous and destabilized cliff edges,” Chief Ranger John Broward said. “Crossing safety barriers and entering closed areas can result in serious injuries and death.”

Officials said the last fall fatality in the park occurred on Oct. 29, 2017.

Months of Lava, Gas, and Earthquakes

Since May last year, Kilauea Volcano started erupting and damaging homes, causing devastation on Hawaii’s Big Island that lasted for months. During those several months, Hawaii suffered some 10,000 tremors and many major quakes. In early June, a U.S. Geological Survey official said that the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii experienced 500 earthquakes in one day.

But the volcanic activity slowed down in August, indicating that the volcano may have stopped erupting or that it might be a brief pause amid an ongoing eruption cycle, according to the United States Geological Survey.

“Seismicity and ground deformation are negligible at the summit of Kīlauea Volcano. On the volcano’s lower East Rift Zone (LERZ), only a few ocean entries are oozing lava; laze plumes are minimal. Sulfur dioxide emission rates at both the summit and LERZ are drastically reduced; the combined rate is lower than at any time since late 2007,” posted in a message on Aug. 20.

That figure “is the highest rate ever measured there,” said USGS seismologist Brian Shiro.

Lava flows downhill in this helicopter overflight image of Kilauea Volcano’s lower East Rift zone during ongoing eruptions in Hawaii on May 19, 2018. (USGS/Handout via REUTERS)

Lava flows have consumed more than 700 homes and one charter school, so far, according to Hawaii News Now. Hundreds more homes have either been damaged or left inaccessible by the slow-flowing molten rock.

Because the lava was slow moving, residents were evacuated, so while homes were lost, lives were not.

Onlookers stare at the lava field in the Leilani Estates near Pahoa, May 24, 2018. (Reuters/Marco Garcia)

Still, the lava engulfed more than 6,100 acres of the island, and added at least 700 acres of new land where the lava flows entered the ocean.

During some eruptions in July 2018, basketball-sized “lava bombs”—chunks of superheated rocks ejected from the volcano like artillery shells—struck on and near some tour boats of the coast of the Big Island, injuring 23 passengers.

A hole, punched through the roof of a tourist boat, is seen after lava from the Mount Kilauea volcano exploded in the sea off Kapoho, Hawaii, U.S. July 16, 2018. (Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources/Handout via Reuters)

When lava flows into the ocean, it creates huge toxic clouds of steaming “laze” or lava haze, made up of boiling water and hydrochloric acid filled with tiny particles of volcanic glass. The USGS warns people not to walk into this laze to avoid breathing in the toxic and caustic fumes.

The various volcanic vents also emit toxic concentrations of sulfur dioxide or rotten egg gas.

NTD reporter Chris Jusurek contributed to this report.

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