Tour company, visitors cited for trying to sneak into Halemaumau Crater

Updated: Mar. 8, 2017 at 2:49 PM HST
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(Image: Aventure et Volcans/Facebook)
(Image: Aventure et Volcans/Facebook)

HILO, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - National Park Service officers have cited a French tour company that attempted to sneak more than a dozen visitors into a closed area at Kilauea volcano's Halemaumau Crater.

Citations were issued to 14 people after they were spotted just after midnight about 400 yards in from the closed section of Crater Rim Driver. The 44-year-old tour guide was issued additional citations for operating a non-permitted business in the park and creating a hazardous condition.

NPS said the tour guide was affiliated with the French tour company Aventure et Volcans. He must make a mandatory court appearance and faces a maximum penalty of $5,000 and six months in jail.

The violation of closure citations are $100 each, with a $30 processing fee.

"This is a serious violation," said Chief Ranger John Broward, in a news release. "Areas surrounding Halemaumau Crater are closed because of extremely hazardous volcanic conditions that include high concentrations of toxic gases and particulates, ongoing volcanic explosions and frequent collapses of the crater walls."

On its website, Aventure et Volcans offers an eight-day Big Island trip to see lava. It includes a "departure for a night hike" to observe "the lava lake at Halemaumau." Photos on the tour company's website show visitors on the edge of Halemaumau Crater wearing respirators.

Halemaumau Crater, a 4.7-mile section of Crater Rim Drive, and sections of the Halemaumau and Crater Rim trails, have been closed since the most recent summit eruption began in 2008.

Officials say explosions from Halemaumau can occur anytime, without warning.

In August, a summit explosion hurled a layer of volcanic rock, lava bombs and molten spatter nearly 300 feet beyond the crater rim, and covered an area about 720 feet wide along the rim.

And in October, two explosions blasted lava spatter, rock and glassy particulates a quarter mile from the crater to the closed portion of Crater Rim Drive

"Visitors need to be aware that, while much of the attention lately has been on the hazards of the 61g ocean entry at Kamokuna, the park staff remains very concerned about the ongoing hazards in the vicinity of Halemaumau," Broward said. "Rangers will continue to monitor and take appropriate action to reduce the occurrence of risky behavior in both areas."

Since July 2016, rangers have issued 35 citations for closure violations at Halemaumau, and nearly 100 citations at Kamokuna.

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