Man dies in Hawaii after falling into lava tube in his yard

Clay Curtis
November 8, 2019

A man in Hawaii has died after falling down a "lava tube" - a tunnel formed by volcanic eruptions - while trimming trees on his property.

The 71-year-old man - who has not been identified - had not been heard from or seen in several days, prompting authorities to go to his residence in Kaumana, Hilo on Monday. When they went to his home in Kaumana on Monday they discovered the man had plummeted 22 feet below the surface through a soft area of ground on his property into a lava tube, according to a press release.

Hawaiʻi Fire Department Rescue personnel responded to the scene and were able to repel into the lave tube and extract the victim, the release stated.

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Hawaii Police Department Major Robert Wagner told Big Island Now that the shaft the man fell into was approximate two feet (60cm) wide. He was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. However, extinct tubes (the ones without flowing lava) are often used as tourist attractions in Hawaii. Tubes form by crusting over of lava channels and pahoehoe flows. It appears that the man was gardening when the ground beneath him collapse, leaving him to fall 7 metres below the surface.

Lava tubes are formed where lava once flowed and then hardened. An autopsy found he died of injuries consistent with falling.

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