A Florida man who ignored the warning signs and had himself filmed walking on the hot thermals in Yellowstone National Park on Friday said he has turned himself in to authorities.
Matt Manzari, of Clermont, Florida, told Cowboy State Daily on Sunday evening that he was feeling remorse for his actions and subsequent video he posted on his TikTok account and wanted to “own up” for his mistakes.
“My statement is absolute remorse and apologies for everything,” Manzari said from his home in Florida. “Regardless of the backlash, like if I knew that it could be damaging to the ecosystem and if I knew it could be damaging to the park, I wouldn’t have done it. I was 100% not trying to be disrespectful.”
Manzari said he had contacted law enforcement authorities with the National Park Service by phone on Sunday afternoon.
Manzari, a motivational speaker who is well-known in public-speaking circles for telling his story of overcoming injuries suffered by an accidental electrocution, said he saw the signs on the boardwalk telling people not to leave the path but thought the warnings were more cautionary in nature.
To that end, he said he saw an opportunity to create a social media video where he could make light of his burn injuries, to continue to push the message to other burn victims to “not be ashamed of your body.”
“The point of the video was clearly to point out my scars and to clearly raise burn awareness, to clearly poke fun,” he said. “It’s okay to have a sense of humor about yourself and it’s okay to be open about what you’re going through.”
Taking A Dip
The eight–second video, which went viral on the popular Facebook page “Yellowstone: Invasion of the Idiots” begins with Manzari, standing on the hot thermals and holding his shirt in his hands, while a narrator says “Taking a dip in Yellowstone’s boiling springs.”
While Manzari walks up to the camera, text on the screen appears and says, “Oh man, they said it was hot, but…”
Manzari then says, “Geewiz, do I have a rash?” At that point, the scars on his torso are evident and laughing is heard as he walks off camera.
He said the whole thing was supposed to be “lighthearted” and not a blatant display of breaking park rules.
“I stepped off the boardwalk thinking it was more of like, you know you could slip and fall,” he said, not knowing that at least 22 people have died from thermal-related deaths. “Obviously the rocks look wet. You know? I didn’t know what the implications were but I never thought it was damaging to the ecosystem.”
After the backlash he received from followers on his TikTok account and other social media channels, including death threats, Manzari took the video down and apologized to many commenters, he said.
“I took the video down and I truly do care about conservation,” Manzari wrote. “I had no idea of the impact or implications. I wish many of you would’ve approached me a little nicer. I have no problem owning up to my mistakes and apologize a thousand times over.”
Although most commenters did not appear to be forgiving, one man who worked as a heavy equipment operator for the National Park Service told him to use the experience to do good.
“Understand that there are many of us that lived, worked, and gave our heart and soul to telling and teaching others about this park,” Charlie Stilson wrote.
“Now if you are man enough to take the blame for your actions, turn yourself in to the park rangers and spare as much monetary funds as possible. Make every effort to ensure this isn’t copied by others or others trying to top your exploits. Be the man you claim to be!” Stilson said.
Manzari agreed with Stilson and said he would pay whatever fines were levied and then help to spread awareness of his wrongdoing.
Others, however, were not as forgiving as Stilson, and pointed to a comment Manzari made Saturday on his original TikTok post when a follower told him what he was doing was illegal.
“For sure the general public should never do this without permission!” Manzari replied.
Facebook user Jennifer Pierson said, “There’s a screenshot of you saying ‘for sure the general public should not do this without permission.’ What an arrogant thing to say, as I’m 1000% sure you did not have permission.’”
Manzari’s reaction to the incident is different than many Yellowstone visitors who have violated similar rules in that he immediately took to social media channels and apologized where others either joked about the violation or went on the run.
One man who hit golf balls in Yellowstone National Park made light of the incident before realizing he had committed a federal crime. Same for the three men who attempted to boil a chicken “to make dinner” in the hot thermals.
Then there are the people who weren’t that lucky. Like the man whose body dissolved into the hot springs after falling in, in 2016.
Or the woman who suffered burns on 91 percent of her body after trying to rescue her dog last year.
Now that he realizes the seriousness of the situation, Manzari said he will face this challenge head-on.
“How can I make make a difference now? How do I make amends? How do I do what I can to, you know, own up to my mistakes? And that’s what I’m trying to do,” he said.