A 15-year-old San Rafael boy is lucky to be alive, suffering only a bump on his head and minor cuts after falling 25 feet into a steaming earth crack at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
"This young visitor and his family are extraordinarily lucky that he survived this mishap," Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando said in a statement.
Jessica Ferracane, a spokeswoman for the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, said the park's search-and-rescue team and county of Hawaii fire crews responded to a 911 call from the youth's mother at 6:43 p.m. Wednesday, stating the teenager had attempted to leap over the protective railing surrounding a steam vent between the Kilauea Visitor Center and Volcano House.
The boy's name was withheld by the park because he is a minor.
Search-and-rescue coordinator John Broward, assisted by the fire department, rappelled into the deep, narrow, chimney-like crack and rescued the youth. His family declined further medical treatment and he was released at the scene after an assessment by responders.
"It was all said and done in about two hours," Ferracane said.
She said steam vents are prevalent throughout the park, which is home to two volcanoes -- one of which is actively erupting. Steam vents are created when underground water or rainwater is warmed by rocks heated by volcanic lava. The heated water rises through cracks in the ground as steam.
Ferracane said the steaming vents typically log temperatures of 120 to 160 degrees, enough to cause major damage to a person's body. She said the youth was fortunate that Hawaii's recent clear and warm weather reduced the vent's temperature to 85 to 90 degrees, as reported by rescuers.
She said there's no mistaking the vents aren't meant to be messed with.
"There's a very sturdy rock wall there as well as a double railing and a sign that describes steam vents," Ferracane said.
Orlando said such occurrences put other visitors, rescuers, park staff and first responders at risk.
"This incident serves as a reminder that park visitors are urged to stay on trails and not engage in reckless behavior while visiting their national parks," Orlando said.
This is the seventh search-and-rescue mission conducted by park staff this year. Last year, park crews responded to 26 incidents.