(BBC) — A US soldier in Hawaii was critically injured after he fell 70ft (21 metres) into one of the most active volcanoes on Earth, parks officials say.
Rangers rescued the 32-year-old man, who they say climbed over a metal guard rail overlooking the Kilauea caldera in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Witnesses say the ground crumbled away beneath the victim’s feet, causing him to plunge down the 300ft cliff.
He landed on a ledge, stopping him for falling into the crater.
Witnesses say the man was part of a group who had stopped at the Steaming Bluff overlook around 18:30 local time on Wednesday.
“At approximately 21:00 [local time], the man was found alive but seriously injured on a narrow ledge about 70 feet down from the cliff edge,” parks officials said in a statement.
“Rescue personnel successfully completed a high angle extrication using ropes and stokes litter and, with support from a Department of Defense helicopter, the man was airlifted to Hilo Medical Center for urgent care.”
On Thursday, the unidentified man’s condition was upgraded from critical to stable.
Army officials told KGMB-TV that the man is a soldier from the Schofield Barracks who had been on Big Island as part of a training mission.
Chief Ranger John Broward warned that visitors should never cross safety barriers, “especially around dangerous and destabilised cliff edges”.
The Kilauea volcano erupted last year, destroying an estimated 700 homes across nearly 14 square miles (22 sq/km).
The United States Geological Survey says that Kilauea “ranks among the world’s most active volcanoes and may even top the list,” which has been in a near constant state of eruption since 1983.
The last fatality in the park was in October 2017.