Dozens of people were injured when the Hawaiian tour boat they were on, operated by Lava Ocean Tours, was hit by a chunk of lava off the coast of Hawaii’s Big Island. The accident occurred on Monday, July 16, and highlighted some of the dangers of lava boat tours, in which tourists are taken aboard boats to view erupting volcanoes. In this case, the boat’s occupants were viewing Kilauea volcano, while it experienced its largest eruption in more than 100 years and spewed lava bombs onto the Lava Ocean Tours boat.
Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman Represents Victims Harmed in the Lava Ocean Tours Incident
Several people who sustained injuries in this preventable incident have retained the personal injury attorneys at Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman to represent them in lawsuits against the responsible party (or parties). Our firm filed a lawsuit in the Third Circuit Court in Hawaii on February 22, 2019, on behalf of a married couple from Oregon and a family of four from California. The families are suing Lava Ocean Tours Inc. and Shane Turpin, captain of the lava boat “Hot Spot” for their injuries.
“They failed to provide appropriate warnings of the dangers associated with going out on lava boats, including the possibility of lava bombs, the explosions when the lava hits the water and the explosions of the lava underneath the water,” says Clay Robbins, the families’ attorney.
Our firm understands the challenges and complexities associated with litigating these types of cases. Collectively, Baum Hedlund attorneys have handled thousands of cases across all areas of practice and secured over $4 billion in verdicts and settlements on behalf of clients.
If you or someone close to you was injured in the Hawaii lava tour boat incident on July 16, 2018, we can help. Call us today at 800-827-0087 for a free case evaluation.
What Are Hawaii Lava Boat Tours?
Lava tours are typically conducted via boat or helicopter, giving people the chance to view an erupting volcano such as the Kilauea volcano. Officials, due to safety concerns, limit land access to areas that permit people to have good views of the eruptions. Tour boat operators take customers by boat to areas near the place where the lava enters the sea. This gives the customers the excitement of seeing hot lava and seawater interact before their eyes. Here, again, safety concerns come into play, as the boats must keep a safe distance from the entry point.
The Coast Guard regulates how close tour boat operators can get to the site where the lava reaches the water. Most vessels are not allowed to get closer than 984 feet from that spot, although experienced boat operators had been allowed to apply for a special license to reduce that distance to 164 feet. Following the incident with the Lava Ocean Tours boat, the Coast Guard stopped allowing the distance exception.
What Happened to the Tour Boat?
The Lava Ocean Tours boat was reportedly in the area of the lava entry into the sea for approximately 20 minutes. While some eyewitnesses said the boat was very close to the entry point, according to its captain, it was about 250 yards away when an explosion occurred, sending molten lava hurling through the boat and injuring dozens of people. One woman suffered a broken femur in the incident, while others had severe cuts and burns. The location of the explosion meant customers on the boat endured an almost two-hour ride back to port before they could get medical attention.
Although the Hawaii Fire Department reportedly considered sending a helicopter, officials decided not to because of the time it would take to reach the boat, issues with hoisting victims to the helicopter, and information from the boat operator that he was only 40 minutes away, according to reports.
Thirteen passengers received treatment at Hilo Medical Center, with four being transported by ambulance. Another 10 passengers received treatment for minor injuries at the Wailoa Harbor.
The explosion was caused when a large piece of lava, which can reach up to 2,000 degrees, hit the cold water. Experts say the shallowness of the water where the explosion occurred may have made the situation worse. Eruptions are known to sometimes be so powerful that even boulders have been ejected. Failure to respect the potentially awesome power of volcanic eruptions can lead to tragedy.
For the past 35 years, the Kilauea volcano has erupted continuously, but in the past two months, lava has spurted through new cracks. Since that time the lava destroyed 700 homes but caused only one serious injury—a broken leg—before the Hawaii lava tour boat incident.
Lava Boat Attorneys
At Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, we have seen the devastating consequences of tourism-related accidents. We represented victims of the Seattle Tour Boat accident, which killed five students and critically injured many more. Our attorneys advocate not just for our clients but for safety in the tourism industry, to hold tourism company operators accountable when they fail to prioritize customer safety.
If you or someone you love was injured in the Hawaii lava boat tour incident, our attorneys are here to answer your questions. Contact us for a no-obligation consultation. We’ll advise you of your rights and explain your options to you.
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Hawaii Lava Boat Incident Updates
Lava boat passenger Jessica Tilton said she felt like she was encased in lava when the explosion occurred. Tilton was next to the railing on the left side of the lava boat when she was hit in the leg by lava rock. She suffered a broken femur, broken hip, and fractured tibia in the explosion. Tilton told reporters she felt the boat got too close to the lava while other captains kept their boats further away.
A passenger on the lava boat says he thought the boat was too close to the lava and others on the boat around him also felt the same way. Although the site of the lava initially awed the passengers, they reportedly became nervous as the boat got closer to the lava flow. Will Bryan was hit in the back by lava and says he assumed he was going to die in the explosion. He suffered burns and lacerations on his lower body.
Tour boat companies resumed operations following the Hawaii lava boat explosion. The Coast Guard revoked all special permits, so boats were not allowed to go closer than 984 feet from the point where the lava flows into the ocean. Lava boat operators said they would follow the rules that prevent them from moving too close to the lava.