Japanese tourist missing, rental found near lava viewing area

Japanese tourist missing, rental found near lava viewing area: 10 p.m. report
Published: Feb. 15, 2013 at 8:23 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 16, 2013 at 2:41 AM HST
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© Daryl Lee/Hawaii News Now
© Daryl Lee/Hawaii News Now

Big Island police have a mystery on their hands.

They're trying to locate a missing Japanese visitor – who was last seen in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Wednesday. He disappeared - just as authorities and tourism officials try to raise awareness about the perils of paradise.

Park officials told Hawaii News Now that the area where the Japanese national left his rental car was not inside the park, but the terrain is rough and sharp and tourists, even locals, should be cautious when exploring there.

Hawaii county police first learned about the missing 51 year old this morning - when someone reported a suspicious car parked at the end of highway 130 - near the lava viewing station - for two days.

The maroon rental was unlocked, and inside, they found a piece of paper with the man's name, Hiromichi Yoshino, as well as money and an entrance receipt to Volcanoes National Park dated February 13th at 8:57 a.m. The car keys were still in the ignition.

As they began investigating, police discovered the rental car was due back Thursday. They immediately dispatched the fire department to canvass the rugged terrain by air, but so far, he's nowhere to be found.

As police continue to drum up leads, authorities and tourism officials are reminding visitors to be heed warnings about the hazards of Hawaii's natural beauty. So far this year, the islands have already seen at least a dozen accidental visitor deaths - outpacing last year. Five tourists drowned, two fell from cliffs, and the others died in traffic accidents.

In this latest missing person's case, police believe Yoshino was staying at a bed and breakfast in Volcano Village. They don't know much more beyond that.

If you're on the Big Island, keep a lookout for Yoshino. Anyone who may know - or think they know - something, call the Puna patrol, specifically - or any Hawaii county police line.

Officer Shea Nactor at Puna patrol (808) 965-2716 or the Hawaii county police non-emergency number (808) 935-3311.

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