The state Department of Land and Natural Resources is investigating an incident early Wednesday evening in which an injured hiker on a lava tour was airlifted to safety along with seven others, according to an email received Saturday.
The Fire Department said in a written statement the incident occurred in Kahaualea Natural Area Reserve, which is closed to hikers because of volcanic activity and requires a permit for commercial activity.
Orion-Independence Enocencio, owner of the tour company Ahiu Hawaii, said the incident was not in the natural reserve area and instead occurred in Wao Kele o Puna Rainforest, which is owned by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs but managed by DLNR.
Commercial activity in a natural area reserve requires a permit, and Garett Kamemoto, a spokesman for OHA said in a Thursday email DLNR rules governing natural reserve areas also apply to Wao Kele o Puna.
In a phone call Friday, Enocencio said his company adheres to traditional Hawaiian practices and doesn’t need a permit to conduct lava tours in the rainforest. He said Thursday that he has applied for a permit to conduct commercial activity in the natural reserve area and is awaiting approval.
The hiker, a 36-year-old woman from Mexico, suffered a sprained ankle. She, five family members and two Ahiu Hawaii tour guides were airlifted to a landing zone in Fern Forest subdivision, according to the Fire Department. She was treated there by paramedics.