18+ People Now Cited For Loitering in Puna Volcano Disaster Zone
Another warning today for people to stop sneaking around check-points in Lower Puna to try and get close to active lava flows. Saturday officers from the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement cited an additional eight people for loitering in a disaster area under Hawai‘i County Code. This brings to 18, the number of citations DOCARE has issued during the last week to people for by-passing check-points and entering dangerous areas.
This morning officers from the Hawai‘i County Police Department are issuing citations to people who are being rescued by air, also for loitering and refusal to vacate a disaster area. It’s unknown at this time how many citations have been written.
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 (photos attached).
Two brothers from Massachusetts, 36-year-old Glenn Rupp and 40-year old Brian Rupp had driven their rental Jeep (photo attached) onto Pohoiki Road 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 they were wearing masks and were taking photographs. One camera was confiscated for evidence.
Earlier in the afternoon, at 12:40, 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.
Last night at 8:45 p.m. a pick-up truck driven by 34-year-old Kyle Eckstrom of Honolulu was found just below the gate at Lava Tree State Park (photo attached). 41-year-old David Jensen of Washington, D.C. was cited near-by at 11:45 p.m. His Jeep was parked right outside the park (photo attached). It has been closed for more than three weeks due to the 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 this 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.”
Citations for loitering are petty misdemeanors but the penalties can be greater for loitering in a disaster area.