“So of course I made my way to the hospital on vacation. Here is a volcano. Exploding into the boat we are on. What the hell. We are fine. Shaken up and tons of cuts and burns but we are fine.” – passenger Will Bryan via Facebook
A lava bomb hit a tour boat on Monday morning near the Kilauea volcano, Hawaii, injuring 23 people, the Hawaii County Fire Department said. The lava punctured the boat’s roof and it had to return to Wailoa Harbor, the fire department added.
The boat was about 500 yards from shore when the lava hit the boat, according to the captain Shane Turpin.
“As we were exiting the zone, all of a sudden everything around us exploded. It was everywhere.” – Captain Shane Turpin told the AP
Hilo Medical Center confirmed 13 passengers were treated at the hospital, and another 10 passengers with superficial injuries were treated on arrival at Wailoa Harbor.
Of the 13 injured passengers, four were taken by ambulance to Hilo Medical Center, according to the Hawaii County Fire Department.
One woman in her 20s was in serious condition with a fractured femur, the fire department said. Three passengers were in stable condition.
The lava bomb, or flying chunk of molten rock, left a large hole in the boat’s roof, the fire department said, and a railing was also damaged. A witness who saw the boat return said there were rocks all over it, and some people leaving the boat had burns and gashes on their legs. One person was taken off on a stretcher.
The Kilauea volcano on Hawaii has been erupting continuously for the past 35 years. In May, it became more active than normal, opening new fissures, and devastating local neighborhoods. Over 700 homes have been destroyed.
In May, the US Coast Guard instituted a safety zone where lava enters the ocean. Boats can only come within 984′ of those zones, unless the captain has a special permit. Special permits allow boats to get as close as 164′ from lave entering the sea.
The US Geological survey explains that explosions that can expel lava bombs occur in this region when 2,000-degree lava enters seawater. Lightning is sometimes produced inside the gas plumes that are ejected from these explosions.
Officials have warned of serious danger in getting too close to lava entering the sea due to lava bombs, noxious gases, acid, and suspended fine glass that can get in your lungs.
The US Coast Guard reports that tour boats have been operating in this area doing these “lava ocean” tours for at least the past 20 years.
Besides this boat’s 23 injuries, the only other serious injury reported since May was a many who was hit in the leg by flying lava.