Autopsy: Volcano tour guide’s death accidental

  • SEAN KING (photo by John Larson)

An autopsy on a 51-year-old tour guide who collapsed and died while leading a lava tour hike near Kalapana on Feb. 1 found the man’s death was accidental.

The report found the immediate cause of death for Sean King was “thermal injuries and volcanic fume exposure.”


According to police, just before 4 a.m. that morning, King and three visitors — a 22-year-old woman from South Carolina, a 23-year-old man from New Jersey, and a 22-year-old man from New York — were about two miles inland from the 24.5-mile marker of the emergency road.

Heavy steam clouds caused by rain engulfed the group, and King collapsed and went unconscious.


Because of limited visibility and poor cellphone reception, the others, who weren’t familiar with the area, hiked several hours before they were able to call for help at about 8:15 a.m.

A county helicopter found King’s body about 290 yards outside of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park boundary on state land. His body was taken to Hilo Medical Center, where the official pronouncement of death was made at 12:28 p.m.

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