Lava flies through roof of Hawaii tour boat, injuring 23

Lava flows into the ocean off the shore of Pahoa, Hawaii.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

An explosion sent lava crashing through the roof of a tour boat off Hawaii’s Big Island, injuring 23 people on Monday, officials said.

A woman in her 20s was in serious condition with a broken thigh bone, the Hawaii County Fire Department said. Three others were in stable condition at a hospital with unspecified injuries. The rest of the passengers suffered burns, scrapes and other superficial injuries. Authorities originally put the number of injured at 13, but increased the toll as more people with injuries came forward.

They were aboard a tour boat that takes visitors to see lava plunging into the ocean from a volcano that has been erupting for two months. Firefighters said the lava punctured the boat’s roof, leaving a gaping hole.


Officials have warned of the danger of getting close to lava entering the ocean, saying the interaction can create clouds of acid and fine glass. Despite the hazards, several companies operate such tours.

The U.S. Coast Guard in May instituted a safety zone where lava flows into the ocean off the Big Island. It prohibits vessels from getting closer than 984 feet from ocean-entry points.

The agency allows experienced boat operators to apply for a special license to get up to 164 feet from where lava sizzles into the sea.

People aboard Lava Ocean Tours' boat the Hot Shot watch as lava flows into the ocean near Pahoa, Hawaii, on July 2.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

The molten rock is coming from the Kilauea volcano, which has been erupting from a rural residential area since early May and has destroyed more than 700 homes. But until now, the only serious injury was to a man who was hit by flying lava that broke his leg.

Officials were interviewing injured passengers at a hospital.

The lava continues to flow from Kilauea volcano, creating a ghostly spectacle »


3:15 p.m.: This article was updated with a revised injury count and other details.

This article was originally published at 1:35 p.m.