A local couple is safely back home, after an adventure in Hawaii they’ll never forget.
Will Bryan and Erin Walsh were hit by smoldering pieces of lava when their tour boat got too close to an erupting volcano.
“The reason we went to Hawaii was for the lava, it’s always been a bucket list thing for me,” Bryan told FOX 12 on Thursday.
Early Monday morning, Bryan and Walsh set out on a sightseeing boat with Lava Ocean Tours from Hilo to watch the lava from a volcano pour into the ocean.
He captured a video clip on his cell phone showing the majesty of the trip, as ribbons of orange glowing lava lit up the dark sky.
With each pass, their tour boat got a little closer.
“Probably about the fifth pass the ooh and ahhs stopped and you could tell everyone was getting a little uncomfortable,” he said. “It’s that mob mentality. Nobody wants to be the person to say we’re too close, but everybody thought we were too close.”
He was right.
Moments later, a lava bomb exploded, sending molten pieces of rock flying right towards them. On the small boat, there was nowhere to escape.
In 15 seconds, nearly everyone on board, 23 people, were hurt.
“I just jumped into the aisle and got down and he covered me,” Walsh told FOX 12. “But I still got pelted with the debris, it was all over my hair and my face and my legs, it was hot.”
“I remember just waiting for the lava to start melting through my clothes and it never came, it was terrifying,” Walsh said, lucky that most of the pieces that hit him were smaller in size and therefore a little cooler as they made impact. “I probably got hit with 30 or 40 of them, all up my back, back of the head, legs.”
Still, he was burned and they both suffered scrapes. Walsh also had pieces of lava rock in her eye.
Bryan said among the injuries, there was a woman whose leg was caught in part of the chair as they tried to find cover. Her femur was broken. He has paramedic training and said there was also a surgeon who happened to be on board and helped her.
“It felt like an eternity. It was never going to end,” Walsh said of the glowing rocks raining down on them. “It’s really surreal and I’m just happy I’m alive.”
Bryan said he’s not angry with the tour operators, but he believes they should have known better than to get so close.
“They’ve been doing this for decades,” he said. “I think it’s one of those things where I think if you cut a corner once and it works, you cut a little more off and a little more off. And I think maybe that’s what happened… and this is where it bit them.”
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