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Settlement in ‘lava bomb’ lawsuit

A settlement has been reached in a federal lawsuit regarding a “lava bomb” that tore through the roof of a lava tour boat and injured numerous passengers near Kapoho on July 16, 2018.

Settlement terms reached between Lava Ocean Tours and three sets of claimants are confidential, and the audio recording and transcript of the settlement hearing were sealed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Wes Reber Porter in Honolulu.

The lawsuit accused Lava Ocean Tours and Shane Turpin, captain of the “Hot Spot,” of negligence for piloting the sightseeing boat too close to the lava ocean entry and not adequately warning passengers of the tour’s potential hazards.

Jessica Tilton, then 20, of Washington, Ill., was the most seriously injured passenger.

Tilton had bent over to shield her then 15-year-old sister when she was hit by a volcanic projectile about 2 feet in diameter. She suffered fractures to her thigh bone, tibia and pelvis and required three surgeries at The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu.

Tilton, her parents, Rob and Teresa Tilton, and her twin sisters, identified by their initials because they were minors at the time, sued Lava Ocean Tours — as did another set of plaintiffs, Erin Walsh and William D. Bryan, an Oregon couple, and California couple Ka Ming Li and Dawn Li and their adult daughter, Erica Li, and their minor son.

Authorities said 23 passengers suffered injuries, but only Tilton’s required hospitalization beyond treatment at Hilo Medical Center’s emergency room.

According to the lawsuit, Turpin applied for and was granted permission to navigate his vessels inside a 300-meter safety zone from lava ocean entry points the U.S. Coast Guard had established to protect people and vessels from exploding molten rock.

The Coast Guard had warned Turpin, however, that by entering the safety zone, he and Lava Ocean Tours had to “assume any and all risks and liabilities associated therewith, including but not limited to: injury, death and damage to persons and property.”

Turpin told the Associated Press in July 2018 he was about 250 yards from the lava ocean entry point and was in the process of leaving the zone when the explosion occurred.

Turpin didn’t return a phone call Wednesday in time for the story.

Email John Burnett at
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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