'Lava Bomb' Injures 23 on Hawaii Tour Boat Near Kilauea Volcano

At least 23 people were injured when a "lava bomb" hit a tour boat near the long-erupting Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island.

According to emergency officials, 23 people on the Lava Ocean Tours, one of the many permitted commercial boat tours that take visitors to see the Kilauea volcano's active ocean entry, were injured after molten rock running into the ocean exploded and sent debris of lava onto the tour boat.

Pictures of the aftermath of the incident, which occurred just after 6 a.m., show a large hole in the roof of the tour boat where the lava had burned through, while the seats and floor were left covered in hardened lava.

Following the explosion, the boat returned to the Wailoa Small Boat Harbor in Hilo, where 13 people were transported to the Hilo Medical Center and 10 others were treated at the scene for minor injuries, including soft tissue injuries and burns. A 20-year-old woman was seriously injured, suffering a traumatic leg injury.

Wendy Stovall, a U.S. Geological Survey volcanologist, told USA Today that lava bombs can occur when water meets lava, causing the water to flash to steam, which can then cause the lava to explode into fragments.

"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," DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said.

The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), the Hawai'i County Police Department and the U.S. Coast Guard are investigating the incident.


The Kilauea volcano has been erupting for two months, having begun on May 3 when clouds of steam and ash were sent into the sky and the Big Island was rocked with several earthquakes, one of which marked the largest temblor in Hawaii since 1975, and led to small tsunami waves and sea fluctuations around the island.

The eruption has led to mandatory evacuations as fissures opened up and officials warned of "extremely high levels of dangerous" sulfur dioxide gas. Several homes have been destroyed as a result of the molten lava, and in May, the first reported injury relating to the eruption was reported when a man was hit by lava splatter, reportedly shattering his leg from his shin to his foot.