By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A woman was life-flighted to an Idaho hospital on Thursday after suffering severe burns after leaving the boardwalk near Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park.
On Thursday morning, rangers provided initial care to a 19-year-old woman from Rhode Island who had suffered second- and third-degree burns to 5% of her body.
“The ground in hydrothermal areas is fragile and thin, and there is scalding water just below the surface,” park officials said. “Everyone must always remain on boardwalks and trails and exercise extreme caution around thermal features.”
The patient, a concessions employee, was taken by ambulance to West Yellowstone, Montana, and life-flighted to the burn center at Eastern Idaho Medical Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Her condition was unknown as of Thursday evening.
Some social media reports said the woman fell into an area of Old Faithful as the geyser erupted.
Officials say the scalding water in Yellowstone can reach over 400 degrees, which means instant death.
In 2016, recovery efforts for a man who fell into a spring were stopped because park authorities believed the body simply dissolved.
“Recovery efforts have been terminated in part because we have not been able to locate any remains, unfortunately,” a spokesperson for the park said at the time.
This is the first significant injury in a thermal area this year. In 2020, a three-year-old suffered second-degree-thermal burns to the lower body and back and a visitor (who illegally entered the park) fell into a thermal feature at Old Faithful while backing up and taking photos.
In September 2019, a man suffered severe burns after falling into thermal water near the cone of Old Faithful Geyser. In June 2017, a man sustained severe burns after falling in a hot spring in the Lower Geyser Basin.
In June 2016, a man left the boardwalk and died after slipping into a hot spring in Norris Geyser Basin. In August 2000, one person died and two people received severe burns from falling into a hot spring in the Lower Geyser Basin.
A woman from Connecticut was sentenced last month to seven days in jail for walking off the boardwalks and onto geothermal grounds in the park. Leaving the designated walkways in Yellowstone is a federal crime.
More than 20 people have died after leaving the boardwalk and walking on thermal ground. In some cases, victims have never been found as the scalding water dissolved their bodies.