A tour guide based in France and a tour group of 13 people were caught early Monday morning sneaking into the closed area at Halema‘uma‘u, the erupting summit crater of Kīlauea volcano.
National Park Service law enforcement officers spotted the group just after midnight, and issued citations for violating the terms of the closure to all 14 people. The tour guide was issued additional citations for operating a non-permitted business in the park and creating a hazardous condition. All 14 were escorted out of the park.
The 44-year-old male tour guide, affiliated with the French tour company Adventure et Volcans, must make a mandatory court appearance and faces a maximum penalty of $5,000 and six months in jail. His name is being withheld as the investigation continues. The violation of closure citations are $100 each, with a $30 processing fee.
“This is a serious violation,” said Chief Ranger John Broward. “Areas surrounding Halema‘uma‘u Crater are closed because of extremely hazardous volcanic conditions that include high concentrations of toxic gases and particulates, ongoing volcanic explosions and frequent collapses of the crater walls,” he said.
Not all tours are licensed by the National Parks. I have heard of the same thing occurring at the Grand Canyon and other parks. Unlicensed tours are illegal and could end in disaster.