The man fell about 22 feet and died of injuries consistent with falling, authorities said

By Rachel DeSantis
November 07, 2019 10:36 AM

An elderly man in Hawaii apparently fell to his death on Monday after he tumbled more than 20 feet into a lava tube in his own yard.

Police responded around 8:30 a.m. to a property in Kaumana in Hilo to a report of a man who had not been seen or heard from in several days, the Hawaii Police Department said in a press release.

There, they discovered that the man appeared to have fallen about 22 feet through a soft area of ground into a lava tube.

Lava tubes are tunnels that form from lava flowing during long volcanic eruptions. As the lava flows, the top and sides of the stream harden, forming a tube in which the rest of the lava continues to flow. Once it’s all drained, a cave of sorts is left behind, often big enough for people to walk through, according to the National Park Service.

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Members of the Hawaii Fire Department Rescue repelled into the tube and extracted the man, who was transported to the Hilo Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, authorities said.

An autopsy performed on Tuesday found that the man died as a result of injuries consistent with falling, according to the press release. No foul play is suspected.

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The 71-year-old man was believed to be trimming branches in his yard when he fell, reported.

Ken Hon, a volcanologist at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, told the Washington Post that it’s likely the man just didn’t see the hole, as it could have been covered in overgrowth.