Hawaii lava bomb victim haunted by blast: ‘I thought I was dying’



Woman badly injured by the ‘lava bomb’: “I thought I was dying’

The 20-year-old Jessica Tilton gets emotional recalling the day she was hit by the lava rocks, while the sights on the tour boat in Hawaii.

A 20-year-old Illinois tourist who was hit by a lava bomb, while on a boat near Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano said Tuesday that they thought the ship was getting dangerously close to an explosion sent debris flying through the roof.

Jessica Tilton is included in the hospital since July 16, when a boulder of lava, about two meters in diameter hit her, breaking her femur and pelvis and leaving her with other injuries. There were 23 others on the Lava Ocean Tours vessel, which sustained minor burns and abrasions, but Tilton suffer the most serious injuries.

“Everything just went black and you had nothing to see,” she told KHON2 from her hospital bed. “You just felt like you was suffocating and I thought I was dying.”

Tilton, who was sitting closest to the fence on the ship, she said, as she bent over to protect her sister when the lava rock hit her.

Jessica Tilton, she said that she was the victim of the “worst pain I have ever felt”, after she was hit by a lava bomb.


“I kept screaming, ‘My leg!’ because my leg hurt,” she told KHON. “I heard the captain say:” Is there anyone wounded?’ And my father said, was: ‘My daughter, my daughter!”‘

Tilton, a student at Bradley University in Illinois, said the more than an hour to go back to the coast, which she said felt like “forever”.

“It was the worst pain I have ever felt. I was just so scared that maybe these were my last moments with my family, ” she said Tuesday.

A hole in the roof of the tour boat after it was struck by a lava bomb in the last month.


Tilton and her family went on the lava tour on the second to last day of a Hawaiian vacation celebrating her parents ‘ 25th wedding anniversary. Her mother, who gets motion sickness, stayed on shore.

“Everything just went black and you cannot see anything. You just felt like you was suffocating and I thought I was dying.”

– Jessica Tilton


Her father, Rob, told KHON that two surgeons that the sights on the boat came to his daughter to help

“There was a French surgeon who his own sons, who were injured,” he told KHON.

Tilton has to leave for the first semester of her final year at the university. As a contemporary and lyrical jazz dancer, she hoped that she can fully heal and return to a normal life.

Tilton suffered a fractured femur and pelvis and other injuries.


“It is there, it is a challenge every day, but you know, only with a lot of hope, just the purpose of the return to normal life,” she told KHON.


Shane Turpin, the owner and the captain of the ship involved in the episode, has previously told The Associated Press he never saw the explosion that rained molten rock in his boot. Turpin, said the tour group was in the area for about 20 minutes, which passes through the lava as it went into the ocean about 500 metres offshore, Turpin said.

The owner of the tour boat said that he never saw the explosion.


He did not observe “a big explosion,” so that he navigated his ship closer and closer, and at about 250 metres of the lava.

Tilton said she raised concerns about how close the boat is to get, just before everything happened.

“It was too close for comfort for me personally,” Tilton said.

Officials have warned of the danger of almost molten rock seeping into the sea, saying: the interaction of lava and seawater can create clouds of sulphuric acid and a glass. And if hot lava is much cooler water of the ocean, there is also the possibility for large explosions. Despite the dangers, several companies operate such tours.

The coast guard prohibits vessels from getting closer than 984 feet of lava entering the ocean. The agency had experienced, which makes the boat operators to apply for a special license to get closer, up to 164 feet, but stopped so that these exceptions are after the explosion in the last month.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Travis Fedschun is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @travfed

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