Man in Hawaii Dies After Falling Into Lava Tube in his Front Yard

An elderly man has died after he fell into a lava tube on his property near Hilo, Hawaii, police said.

Police say they responded to a request for a welfare check on a 71-year-old man after people hadn't heard from him in the last several days. Officers went to his home in Hilo and discovered the man had plummeted more than 22 feet below the surface after falling through a soft area of ground into a lava tube on his property.

Hawaiʻi Fire Department Rescue personnel responded to the scene and were able to repel into the lave tube and extract the victim, the release stated. He was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. Police have not released the man's name, pending notification to the family. An autopsy performed on Tuesday determined the victim died of injuries consistent with a fall.

No foul play is suspected.

Police Maj. Robert Wagner told Big Island Now that it appeared the man had been trimming some branches on his property when he fell through the soft patch.

Lava tubes are a type of lava cave that form in natural conduits underground as lava moves beneath the hardened surface. Tubes can form either by the crusting over of lava channels, or from what's known as pāhoehoe flows, which is where the lava is moving beneath the surface. One of the most popular tourist destinations in Hilo is the Kaumana Caves Park, where hikers can explore the lava tubes left behind by an 1881 eruption from Mauna Loa.

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