Photographer Sean King, owner of tourism company Hawaii Stargazing Adventures, tragically passed away during a tour group excursion on February 1st after breathing in toxic fumes from a lava flow, according to local news organization KHON2.
Heavy rains over the lava flow resulted in noxious steam, according to officials speaking with the news agency, which made it difficult to see and breathe.
According to friends and officials, King was with three other people as part of a guided hiking tour when it began to rain—he soon lost consciousness. The three individuals were forced to leave King behind and hike several hours before they had cell reception to call for help. Hawaii Fire Department officials spotted King from a helicopter and used it to airlift him to a nearby ambulance, but unfortunately it was too late.
Friends describe King has having been a passionate photographer with a great fondness for the Kilauea volcano. Speaking to KHON2, Bruce Omori, a friend of King's, described the conditions that led to the photographer's tragic demise:
The conditions today, I mean they were horrible. It was dumping so much rain out there. There was a stationary cell that was directly over the flow field, and it was really heavy. We’re shooting that and I’ve never gotten so wet in the helicopter, because it was raining so hard. It was raining so hard that we couldn’t venture any further, because we normally fly the entire length of the flow field, but it was impossible. So much rain was coming down.
According to Big Island Now, Hawaii's Criminal Investigation Section detectives are investigating the incident as an "unattended death. ". dpreview.com