Elderly Man Dies After Falling Into Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano

A 75-year-old man has died after falling into the volcano on Hawaii's Big Island. The man, who is yet to be named, died after falling from a closed area within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the night of January 2.

The man's family had reported him missing early on January 3 and rangers from the National Park Service (NPS), together with Hawaii County firefighters, searched throughout the night to find him.

Eventually they found his body in Kīlauea volcano about eight hours after the family reported him missing. "After searching for the man in the darkness, National Park Service rangers and Hawaiʻi County firefighters located the man's body about 100 feet below the crater rim, west of the Uēkahuna viewing area at the summit of Kīlauea volcano. Park rangers, assisted by helicopter, recovered the body around 8 a.m.," a statement from NPS said.

The NPS said an investigation is now underway and no further details are available. Identification of the victim will take place "pending further notification of family," the statement said.

In 2019, a soldier survived falling into Kīlauea after climbing over a railing to get a better view. The 32-year-old fell 70 feet into the volcano at the Steaming Bluffs area at approximately 6:30 p.m. local time. It took rangers and the Fire department approximately three hours to rescue him. He was transported to hospital for "urgent medical care."

"Visitors should never cross safety barriers, especially around dangerous and destabilized cliff edges," Chief Ranger John Broward told the Star Advertiser at the time. "Crossing safety barriers and entering closed areas can result in serious injuries and death."

According to a 2018 report from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Kīlauea volcano is the most dangerous volcano in the U.S., with the highest "threat score" of any of the active volcanoes in the country. The assessment includes factors such as eruption recurrence, volcano type, historic unrest and the ground-based population at the site.

The USGS currently has Kīlauea volcano's aviation color code as orange. This is the alert level for the volcano and means it is "exhibiting heightened or escalating unrest with increased potential of eruption."

A volcano update on January 3 said there had been a pause in activity at Kīlauea Volcano, with lava activity confined to the crater. This coincided with a magnitude 4.3 earthquake at the volcano, located about 5 miles east-northeast of Pāhala.

Ken Hon, Scientist-in-Charge at Hawaii Volcano Observatory, said the earthquake had "no observable impact" on either of the island's volcanoes. "This earthquake is part of the ongoing seismic swarm under the Pāhala area, which started in August 2019," he said in a statement. "Webcams and other data streams show no impact on the ongoing eruption at Kīlauea."

Kīlauea volcano
Stock image of Kīlauea volcano. A 75-year-old man died after falling into the volcano, the National Park Service said in a statement. Getty Images