An elderly man in Hawaii died after falling into a deep lava tube in his yard.
According to police, the man, believed to be in his early 70s, appeared to be trimming branches in his yard when he fell through a “soft area of ground” and tumbled 22 feet into an underground lava tube.
His body was discovered Monday when police initiated a welfare check on the missing man. Rescue teams were able to pull him up from the tube and he was pronounced dead, according to the Washington Post. An autopsy was conducted Tuesday that found he died “as a result of injuries consistent with falling.”
Lava tubes form after volcanic eruptions. The tubes begin as streams of lava, but when the exposed lava cools, a roof forms over the river allowing hot lava to continue emptying beneath them until it is depleted. Although the tubes are common in Hawaii, it is rare for someone to fall down one.
Ken Hon, a volcanologist at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, said that he thinks the hole was probably already there, but the man didn’t see it. Hon said the hole could have been covered in overgrowth.
“You could be standing on one and not even know it,” he explained.
Hon said it is possible the particular tube formed during an eruption of the Mauna Loa volcano in the late 1800s. He said that eruption resulted in the Kaumana Caves, a popular tourist destination with a 25-mile network of tubes.
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