Man survives 70-foot fall from Kilauea volcano caldera

Published: May. 2, 2019 at 4:49 PM HST
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HAWAII ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - A man was critically injured late Wednesday after climbing over a safety railing at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and falling 70 feet from Kilauea volcano’s caldera.

The 32-year-old man was pulled from the caldera about 9:40 p.m.

On Thursday, he’d been upgraded to stable condition.

Army officials said he is a Schofield Barracks soldier who was on the Big Island as part of a unit on a training mission at Pohakuloa.

Ben Hayes, acting park spokesman and chief of interpretation, said another visitor saw the man fall from the 300-foot cliff about 6:30 p.m. and immediately alerted authorities.

Hayes said the man fell after climbing over a permanent metal railing at the Steaming Bluff overlook to get a better vantage point. That’s when the ground underneath him apparently gave way.

Remarkably, rather than plummeting to the caldera’s floor, the man fell about 70 feet and landed on a narrow ledge.

Chief Ranger John Broward said in a statement:

“Visitors should never cross safety barriers, especially around dangerous and destabilized cliff edges. Crossing safety barriers and entering closed areas can result in serious injuries and death.”

Matthias Kusch, Hawaii County Fire Department battalion chief, said rescuers were able to rappel down to the man, secure him onto a stretcher and bring him back up.

He was airlifted to the Hilo Medical Center.

“He obviously is doing remarkably well for his fall. Only time will tell what injuries he has,” Kusch added.

Multiple rescue parties from the park and county worked together in the rescue operations. Nightfall and windy conditions reportedly made the rescue challenging.

“Conditions are a factor for our team tonight," Hayes said.

“Very dark, however, they are very well trained and skilled in search and rescue techniques, particularly high angle rescues like we’re performing right now.”

The last fall fatality in the park was on Oct. 29, 2017.

Details are developing. This story will be updated.

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