18 arrested for loitering in lava zone; rescued residents also cited

  • DLNR photo This rental Jeep was allegedly driven by brothers, Glenn and Brian Rupp of Massachusetts, to a lava flow in a restricted area on Pohoiki Road.

Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officers cited an additional eight people Saturday for loitering in a disaster area.

According to a written DLNR statement, that brings to 18 the number of citations DOCARE issued during the last week to people for bypassing checkpoints and entering dangerous areas.

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County police also issued citations Sunday morning to people who were being rescued by air. They also were cited for loitering and refusing to vacate a disaster area. It’s unknown at this time how many citations have been written.

Citations for loitering are petty misdemeanors punishable by 30 days in jail, but the penalties can be greater for loitering in a disaster area.

Officers say many of those cited are using back roads that have been coned or barricaded, but need to remain open in case local residents need to evacuate.

Deputy DOCARE Enforcement Chief Jason Redulla said, “These people need to think. They are not only putting themselves into potentially life-threatening situations, but we can’t completely lock gates or erect impassable barricades in areas where people have only one way out – these are the routes loiterers are using to gain up-close access.

Two brothers from Massachusetts, 36-year-old Glenn Rupp and 40-year old Brian Rupp, had driven their rental Jeep onto Pohoiki Road to where lava had crossed, and when DOCARE officers contacted them at 2:15 p.m. Saturday, they were standing on top of “lava that was hardening, but still had active flows.”

Officers say the brothers were wearing masks and were taking photographs. One camera was confiscated for evidence.

Earlier in the afternoon, at 12:40 p.m., two Nanawale Estates residents, 39-year-old Eli McKibbin and 51-year-old Randy Hoyle, were with Darrell and Alice Wells of California, 53 and 51 respectively, when they were cited on Lava Tree Road off Forest Road.

Saturday night at 8:45 p.m., a pickup truck driven by 34-year-old Kyle Eckstrom of Honolulu was found just below the gate at Lava Tree State Park.

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David Jensen, 41, of Washington, D.C., was cited nearby at 11:45 p.m. His Jeep was parked right outside the park, which has been closed for more than three weeks due to the lower East Rift Zone eruption.

DOCARE’s Redulla concluded, “When officers have to spend so much time getting people out of areas that are clearly closed, it means they’re being taken away from more critical duties. The rescues and subsequent citations (Sunday) morning show that some people are not heeding warnings to stay away. They’re putting their own lives at risk, the lives of law enforcement and first responders, and the lives of local residents who may need to evacuate quickly.”

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