An elderly man died after falling into a lava tube in his yard in Hilo, Hawaii, police announced on Wednesday, Nov. 6.
The man was reported missing after one of his acquaintances said he had not been heard from in several days, according to Hawaii Island police. When authorities arrived at the property on Monday they discovered the man had plummeted 22 feet through a soft area of ground on his property into a lava tube, according to a press release.
According to the US Geological Survey, lava tubes are natural underground channels through which lava travels beneath the surface. When the lava finally stops flowing, a large underground cave is left behind which can often be big enough for people to walk through. Kaumana Caves Park near Hilo is a destination for hikers that can explore the lava tubes created by an 1881 flow from Mauna Loa.
Police Maj. Robert Wagner said that it seemed the man had been trimming branches when he fell through the soft ground.
Rescue teams were able to pull the man’s body up. The victim was transported to Hilo Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
His name was being withheld pending positive identification and notification of his family. An autopsy Tuesday determined he died of injuries that are consistent with a long fall, and no foul play is suspected.