Hawaii tour boat operators plan to continue taking visitors to see lava, but will follow the Coast Guard's revised policy and stay farther away after an explosion caused molten rock to barrel through the roof of a vessel, injuring 23 people. The Coast Guard prohibits vessels from getting closer than 984 feet from where Kilauea volcano's lava oozes into the sea. The agency had been allowing experienced boat operators to apply for a special license to get closer up to 164 feet, but it stopped allowing those exceptions Monday morning, the AP reports. A woman in her 20s was transported to Honolulu in serious condition with a broken thigh bone. The other 22 people injured were treated for minor burns and scrapes, including 12 who were treated at a hospital in Hilo. The Coast Guard, state and local officials were investigating what happened.
Shane Turpin, the owner and captain of the vessel that was hit, said he never saw the explosion. He and his tour group had been in the area for about 20 minutes making passes of the ocean entry about 500 yards—which is the length of five football fields—offshore, Turpin said. He didn't observe "any major explosions," so he navigated his vessel closer, to about 250 yards away from the lava. "As we were exiting the zone, all of a sudden everything around us exploded," he said. "It was everywhere." The US Geological Survey says explosions of varying sizes occur whenever 2,000-degree lava enters much colder seawater. Monday's large blast may have been amplified by the relatively shallow water at the point where the lava entered the sea. That's because explosions occur much closer to the surface in such spots.
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