Geologist in Satisfactory Condition After Falling Thigh-Deep Into Lava at Volcano

Associated Press

A geologist was listed in satisfactory condition Thursday after falling thigh-deep into lava at Kilauea Volcano while dressed in a heat-resistant suit, authorities said.

George Ulrich was taking samples at a vent site Wednesday afternoon when congealed lava crust broke beneath him, plunging him into 2,000-degree molten rock, said Reggie Okamura, acting scientist in charge of the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. Ulrich is a staff geologist at the observatory.

"There was another guy there, and he pulled him out in a matter of about five seconds," Okamura said. "We were fortunate. A helicopter was just landing, and they were able to get him out fast."

He was taken to Hilo Hospital, where he was treated for first-, second- and third-degree burns.

Kilauea Volcano has been erupting sporadically since January, 1983. Scientists went to the vent site after lava was seen gurgling in the vent and slightly spilling over, Okamura said. Scientists were unsure whether the low-level activity would escalate.

The zone where Ulrich was working is in a remote, roadless area about 12 miles from Kilauea's summit. Ulrich, 51, was pulled from the lava by Dario Tedesco, a visiting Italian geochemist.

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