The chief ranger of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is warning visitors to "never cross safety barriers, especially around dangerous and destabilized cliff edges," after a soldier did just that—and fell into the Kilauea volcano's caldera. The 32-year-old, reportedly on the Big Island for training exercises, had "just climbed over a permanent metal railing" on a 300-foot cliff at the caldera when the ground collapsed beneath him. He only fell 70 feet, however, landing on a narrow ledge. The incident happened around 6:30pm Wednesday, park officials said, per NPR. It took rescuers more than two hours to rappel to the "seriously injured" man, who was then extricated around 9:40pm.
He arrived at Hilo Medical Center by helicopter in critical condition, though his condition was listed as stable by Thursday. A fire official tells Hawaii News Now the man is "doing remarkably well for his fall. Only time will tell what injuries he has." He was lucky in the sense that Chief Ranger John Broward warns "crossing safety barriers and entering closed areas can result in … death." The park has been transformed by Kilauea's 2018 eruption. A year on, the volcano is still very active. "Our best estimate is that lava could return to the summit in a matter of months to years, and then could return to one of the rift zones in a matter of years to decades," a US Geological Service rep tells CBS News. (Read more Kilauea volcano stories.)