National News

Family moved to Hawaii days before volcano erupted

Posted May 25, 2018 4:49 p.m. EDT

— The Parr family had one dream: move from Santa Cruz, California, to Hawaii and live a simpler life.

The family made the leap over the Pacific Ocean by selling their house in Santa Cruz and moving onto a macadamia nut farmon Hawaii's Big Island near Pahoa.

Days later, earthquakes began rumbling, lava bubbled up through cracks, and the Kilauea volcano erupted.

Their new home was destroyed.

Jon Parr, who owns an aquaponics consulting business, spent the past decade preparing to move his family to Hawaii.

"It closed escrow just two weeks before the eruption. So we had lived there precisely two weeks," Parr said.

In the days after moving in, Parr returned to the mainland for work. But his wife, Zusje, was still in Pahoa. Following the quakes, came the cracks. Zusje and their youngest son were given just hours to evacuate their new home in Lanipuna Gardens near Leilani estates. With no place to go on the island, the Parrs moved back to a rental house in Monterey.

From California, the family watched on television as lava consumed their dream house.

"My mom was having a really hard time, so that has kind of been the hardest part, is just watching my parents have a hard time with losing everything," said the Parr's eldest son, T.J. Parr.

The family paid cash for the property buying the farm in a foreclosure sale. They then spent the rest of their savings making the home and rental unit livable.

"It caught us at the bottom, I mean from the top of the game when the dream's come true, to the bottom," said Parr.

The Parrs have a homeowners policy but the damage isn't covered. The property sits in Lava Zone 1 where it is almost impossible to get lava insurance. The Parrs had secured a policy with lava coverage but per the fine print it doesn't kick in for another six months.

Jon Parr said he knew buying a house in Pahoa was a risk but his house was built in 1908 and sits on a ridge. He thought they'd be okay unless a fissure opened right beneath the property.

Fissure No. 20, the most voluminous of the fissures currently spewing lava, opened about 200 feet from his home.

"We kind of figured it would be like taking a walk while there was a storm outside, you could get hit by lightening but you probably won't, and until you get hit by lightening you never think it will happen to you," he said.

The family eventually wants to try again in Hawaii. Friends and family of the Parrs have started a Go Fund Me account to help with the financial losses. As of Thursday, the Go Fund Me page had raised more than $18,000.