Woman Injured by Lava Bomb on Kilauea Volcano Boat Tour Speaks Out: 'I Can Get Through This'

Some of the most popular tourist attractions in Hawaii have always included the volcanoes and the lava that comes from them. But lately, with Kilauea erupting on a daily basis, the risks associated with those attractions have increased.

A July 16 boat tour of the entry point where lava from Kilauea was entering the Pacific Ocean ended in hospital visits for several people on board. One of the 23 injured passengers, 20-year-old Jessica Tilton of Washington, Illinois, was so badly injured that she remains in the hospital more than two weeks later, WNBC reported.

Many of the people on board the tour, including Tilton's father and twin sisters, suffered from burns and scrapes. Tilton, however, suffered a broken femur and pelvis when she was hit with a two-foot-wide lava bomb. She has since needed several surgeries.

The lava bomb that hit Tilton and the other pieces of rock that rained down on the boat punctured the roof of the craft and left rock and ash in the interior. Tilton had turned to protect one of her 15-year-old sisters when the explosion happened and she was hit with the rock, WNBC reported.

boat roof hole
A photo from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources showing the hole left by a lava bomb in the roof of a tour boat. Hawaii Department of Lane and Natural Resources

"I just keep thinking in my mind every day that, you know, I can get through this and I'll be able to go back to school eventually and you just gotta go through the pain right now to get there," Tilton said through tears in an interview.

The hot lava can have violent reactions with the cooler ocean water when the two combine. Large explosions, scalding hot water and plumes of lava haze, or laze, that are partially made of hydrochloric acid are all features of the ocean entry point, according to the United States Geological Survey.

"Lava entering the ocean creates a distinctive set of hazards that have seriously injured or killed unsuspecting people eager to see up close the interaction of hot lava and cool seawater," according to the USGS.

Before the incident, certain boat tours, including the one Tilton was on, were allowed within 50 meters of the lava flow. Others without special permits were required to stay 300 meters or more from the flow, according to the United States Coast Guard Hawaii Pacific. Following the incident that resulted in Tilton's severe injuries, the Coast Guard moved the safety zone to 300 meters for all boats.

inside tour boat
The inside of the boat that was hit by a lava bomb on Monday in Hawaii. Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources