UPDATE: Lava Tour Boat Incident News Conference Held

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8:14 a.m.: VIDEO: Lightning, Explosion in Ocean Entry Plume. VC: Ikaika Marzo

Lava bomb rips through Lava Ocean Tours boat roof, July 16, 2018, a.m. DLNR photo.

UPDATE: July 16, 2018, 2:55 p.m.: 23 People Injured on Lava Ocean Tours Vessel

Twenty-three people on a Lava Ocean Tours vessel were hurt shortly after 6 a.m. when what has been described as a “lava bomb” sent molten lava showering down on the metal roof of the vessel, leaving a significant hole in it. The Hawai‘i County Fire Department reports four people were transported by medics to the Hilo Medical Center by ambulance, nine others went to the hospital in private vehicles and ten people were treated on the scene for minor soft tissue injuries and burns. The most serious injury was a traumatic leg injury suffered by a 20-year old woman. All other passengers who went to the hospital were treated for minor scrapes and burns.

Inside the Lava Ocean Tours boat, July 16, 2018. PC: DLNR

After the explosion, the boat returned to its dock at the Wailoa Small Boat Harbor in Hilo, where it was met by emergency medical personnel, first responders and officers from the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement. DOCARE and the U.S. Coast Guard are investigating the incident and have no further comment on what happened until that probe is completed.

Inside the Lava Ocean Tours boat, July 16, 2018. PC: DLNR


Anyone conducting commercial ocean tours of the active ocean entry at Kapoho are required to have a commercial use permit from the DLNR Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR). The owner of the boat involved does have a current and valid permit. This tour company also has permission to use the Wailoa harbor as its base of operation, after voluntarily relocating from the Pohoiki boat ramp which is about .5 miles from the active ocean entry currently. Additionally, the U.S. Coast Guard established a permanent safety zone surrounding the entry of lava from the Kīlauea volcano on the southeast side of Hawai‘i island. The safety zone encompasses all waters, extending 300 meters (984 feet) around all ocean entry points.

Lava on top of the Lava Ocean Tours boat, July 16, 2018. PC: DLNR.

DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said, “Clearly, everyone is interested to learn what happened this morning. In the meantime, all of those injured today are very much in our thoughts for speedy and full recoveries.”

The Lava Ocean Tours boat, July 16, 2018, in front of Suisan Market. PC: DLNR

Another tour boat, operated by Hawaiian Lava Boat Tours, was off-shore when the explosion occurred. The video provided by Hawaiian Lava Boat Tours (below) shows a second explosion, a minute or so after the first one that damaged the Lava Ocean Tours vessel.

UPDATE: July 16, 2018 12:32 p.m.: DLNR Reports 22 Injured

The DLNR reported at 12:31 this afternoon that 22 people were hurt early this morning when a lava explosion sent molten lava through the metal roof of a lava tour boat.


UPDATE: July 16, 2018, 10:46 a.m.: Coast Guard to Investigate Incident

A Coast Guard investigator from Sector Honolulu is en route to investigate the lava tour boat incident.

The safety zone currently stands at 984 feet with no exclusions. The Lava Ocean Tours boat captain reported that the closest the boat got to the ocean entry was 600 feet.

Per the captain of the tour boat, the boat arrived offshore Pohoiki lava entry site approximately 500 yards (1,500 feet) offshore, then proceeded to get closer until it was approximately 200 yards (600 feet) offshore.

The safety zone surrounds the lava flow and extends out 300 meters (985 feet), although certain commercial and research vessels with licensed captains demonstrating experience operating in the region and carrying all required safety equipment were given special permission to approach up to 50 meters (164 feet).


Coast Guard officials said they would make no determinations as to whether the boat was within the danger zone until they concluded their investigation.

At approximately 6 a.m., Sector Honolulu watchstanders received an initial report from 911 of three crew members and three sightseers injured in an incident that occurred near a lava flow in Kapoho Bay aboard the tour boat Hot Spot.

The vessel returned to Hilo harbor where awaiting emergency medical services were on standby to receive the injured. Upon arrival in Hilo, that number was revised to 12 total injured, three seriously and nine minor. The injuries reportedly range in severity with the worst being a broken leg.

In response to increased lava activity in the area, the Coast Guard established a temporary safety zone March 2017. That zone was made permanent in May 2018 following a notice of proposed rulemaking.

The zone was set with significant input and consultation from experts with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, U.S. Geological Survey, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and date from the University of Hawaii at Hilo Marine Science Department.

Tour vessels are known to operate the area going back at least 20 years. For more information on the zone, see the latest Marine Safety Information Bulletin.

UPDATE: July 16, 2018, 10:10 a.m.: HFD Releases Details

The Hawai‘i Fire Department disclosed more details regarding this morning’s lava tour boat incident offshore of Pohoiki area, where Fissure 8 lava is entering the ocean.

HFD units arrived at the Wailoa docks in Hilo at 6:38 a.m. to find passengers of a lava boat tour with injuries from a lava explosion.

Per the captain of the tour boat, the boat arrived offshore Pohoiki lava entry site approximately 500 yards offshore, then proceeded to get closer until it was approximately 200 yards offshore.

When the explosion occurred near the shoreline, hurling hot lava rocks towards boat and injuring several passengers, the boat headed out to sea.

The HFD, Hawai‘i Police Department and the DLNR met Lava Ocean Tours’ “Hot Spot” as it docked.

HFD medic units performed triage on all passengers; three were transported by medics, nine went to Hilo Medical Center via their personal vehicle and 10 were treated on scene for minor soft tissue injuries and burns.

UPDATE: July 16, 9:55 a.m.: DLNR Reports 13 People Injured

The DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) reports that 13 people were treated at the Hilo Medical Center after an incident on a lava tour boat early this morning.

A 20-year-old woman suffered major leg trauma.

The other passengers incurred burns and scrapes.

DOCARE and other authorities are investigating this incident.

“DLNR sends its wishes for full and speedy recovery to all of those involved,” DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said.

PHOTO UPDATE, July 16, 9:45 a.m. Lava Ocean Tours boat in Hilo after littoral explosion that injured multiple people

The roof of the vessel has visible holes ripped through the roof where passengers were sitting below.
Police on-site said passengers were burned and suffered broken bones. PC: Crystal Richard

Lava bomb rips through Lava Ocean Tours’ Hot Spot’s roof, July 16, 2018, a.m. PC: Crystal Richard

Lava bomb rips through Lava Ocean Tours’ Hot Spot’s roof, July 16, 2018, a.m. PC: Crystal Richard

Lava bomb rips through Lava Ocean Tours’ Hot Spot’s roof, July 16, 2018, a.m. PC: Crystal Richard

Lava bomb rips through Lava Ocean Tours’ Hot Spot’s roof, July 16, 2018, a.m. PC: Crystal Richard

9:40 a.m.: DLNR Report on Lava Bomb-Lava Boat Incident

At least 10 people on a Lava Ocean Tours vessel were injured this morning after an explosion sent lava through the roof of the boat’s passenger cabin.

Other reports indicate as many as 12 passengers were hurt.

Officers from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) along with the Hawai‘i County Police Department are investigating the incident.

The tours depart from the Wailoa Small Boat Harbor in Hilo at 4 a.m. daily. Prior to the beginning of the East Rift Zone Eruption event, tours left from the Pohoiki Boat Ramp, which now is within .5 miles of the active ocean entrance.

DOCARE officers are now in the process of interviewing injured passengers at the Hilo Medical Center.

In initial reporting, passengers say the vessel was outside of the U.S. Coast Guard-established safety zone.

Along with first responders both state and county officers were at the Wailoa ramp when the boat returned after the incident.

It’s reported one passenger has a broken leg and the others were burned, though the full extent of their injuries is not known at this time.

More information will be published as it becomes available.

9:15 a.m.: Lava Bomb Rips Through Tour Boat Roof

The Hawai‘i County Fire Department has confirmed that a lava tour boat returned to Wailoa Harbor in Hilo around 7 a.m. with 12 injured passengers after the tour boat operated by Shane Turpin was involved in an ocean entry lava explosion.

The fire department reported that a lava bomb punctured the roof of the boat, leaving a large hole.

One of the railings of the boat was also damaged.

Of the 12 injured passengers, three were taken by ambulance to Hilo Medical Center. Two passengers were reported to be in stable condition.

One of the injured passengers, a woman in her 20s, was in serious condition with a fractured femur.

The remaining nine passengers drove themselves to the hospital with superficial injuries, the fire department reported.

The exact location of the incident is not yet clear, nor is the precise time of the incident.

A volcanic lava bomb is a mass of molten rock (tephra) larger than 2.5 inches in diameter, formed when a volcano ejects viscous fragments of lava during an eruption. They cool into solid fragments before they reach the ground.

8:21 a.m.: VIDEO: Lightning, Explosion at Ocean Entry

Unofficial reports indicate that the Hawaiʻi County Fire Department and medical personnel are responding to Suisan Harbor in Hilo. Tour boat operator Ikaika Marzo provided video of a lava explosion near the Kapoho ocean entry this morning, that sent lava pyroclasts flying into the air, landing on a tour boat operated by Shane Turpin.

Eyewitnesses reported that it ripped through the tour boat roof, injuring several passengers and crew members.

More information will be published as soon as officials make it available.

8:14 a.m.: VIDEO: Lightning, Explosion in Ocean Entry Plume

VC: Ikaika Marzo

6 a.m.: Fissure 8 Flow Continues Into Ocean Near Ahalanui

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reports that Fissure 8 continues to erupt lava into the channel heading northeast toward Kapoho into the ocean near Ahalanui.

The following policies remain in effect:

  • Be aware that spill overs of the channel and other breakouts are possible on the active flow field.
  • Do not access the active flow field due to extreme hazard.
  • Disaster assistance is available island-wide to individuals and businesses in Hawaii County that have been affected by the Kilauea eruption.

The Disaster Recovery Center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends, and is located at the Kea‘au High School Gym. If you need a ride, buses run between the two shelters and the Disaster Recovery Center.

Placards are available from today at the Civil Defense office located at 920 Ululani St. in Hilo.

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