Dozens injured in lava explosion that hurled molten rock onto tour boat

KAPOHO, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - At least 23 people were injured Monday morning after a lava explosion sent rocks and other debris flying into the air onto a tour boat in waters off the coast of Kapoho, according to Hawaii County officials.

A 'basketball-sized' lava bomb punctured the roof of the tour boat, which was carrying about 49 passengers while observing Kilauea's Kapoho ocean entry point, leaving a large hole and seriously injuring at least one woman.

The woman was later airlifted to the Queen's Medical Center on Oahu for emergency treatment, family members tell Hawaii News Now. County officials say the woman, believed to be in her twenties, suffered a fractured femur.

Dawn Li and her family were also hit. "My husband turned and sort of hovered over me, so we were pelted with the rocks and its embedded in your scalp and everything and the heat and the steam you could feel it," according to Li.

Dawn's son Christopher suffered third-degree burns on his legs which are now wrapped in bandages.

The incident, according to a state Department of Land and Natural Resources spokesperson, is currently the subject of a multi-agency investigation that also involves the U.S. Coast Guard and Hawaii County police.

The investigation is still in it's very early stages, the DLNR spokesperson said, noting that the agency would have no comment at this time on the investigation's progress.

"It's premature at this point to discuss what violations might be found out of this. The investigation is going to find out whether there were any violations of federal or state law," said Jason Redulla, with the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement.

U.S. Coast Guard crews responded at around 6 a.m. to reports that several crew members and passengers had been injured aboard a tour boat named 'Hot Shot.' The boat returned to Wailoa Harbor in Hilo with the injured passengers at around 7 a.m., county officials said.

Four passengers, including the woman who was later airlifted to Oahu, were taken by ambulance to the Hilo Medical Center. Other passengers suffered burns and scrapes, according to DLNR officials.

The lava explosion stems from ongoing eruptions from Kilauea that began May 3. Since then, more than 700 homes have been claimed and many communities rendered unrecognizable. And just a few days ago, lava from one of the most active fissures began forming a tiny island of lava off of Kapoho.

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This story will be updated.

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