Illinois woman injured by lava bomb in Hawaii shares details of terrifying event

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A young woman from Illinois who was injured by a lava bomb in Hawaii is now sharing the frightening details of just what happened two weeks ago.

Jessica Tilton and her family are from Washington, Illinois, just outside of Peoria. They were on a tour boat getting a closer look at a volcanic eruption when the lava bomb hit.

"Everything just went black and you didn't see anything. You just felt like you were suffocating and I thought I was dying," Tilton said.

Tilton remains in the hospital in Honolulu and is unable to walk. She tearfully described how suddenly lava rocks combined with ash completely overcame one side of their Hawaiian tour boat; the side she was sitting on.

"I kept screaming, because my leg hurt. I heard the captain saying is anyone hurt, and my dad was saying my daughter, my daughter," she recalled.

Tilton had leaned over to protect her younger sister, who was sitting next to her, when she was hit by a lava rock about two feet in diameter. In all, 23 people were injured. By chance, two surgeons happened to be on that boat.

"There was a French surgeon who left his own sons that were injured," said Robert Tilton, father.

"He was the nicest man ever. I cannot thank him enough, I don't even remember his name. He was so nice, he was seriously the nicest man alive," Tilton said through tears.

The Tilton family was on the second to last day of their Hawaiian vacation when they took the lava tour near the Kilauea eruptions. Just before chaos hit, Tilton said she knew they were too close.

"It was too close for comfort for me personally. I said that to my sister, just was a little closer. I just thought it was a little close," she said.

Tilton was among the most seriously injured. Her leg was broken in two places and she has injuries to her hips and back.

"It's getting there, it's a challenge every day, but you know, just using a lot of hope, just the goal of returning to normal life," Tilton said.

Tilton has gone through several surgeries already and her family does not know how much longer before she can return home to Illinois.

Jessica is a contemporary and jazz dancer at Bradley University, and hopes her injuries will heal and she can dance again.
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