A Florida man who filmed himself walking on hot thermals in Yellowstone National Park earlier this month has been officially cited for a violation of federal law and ordered to appear in-person at the U.S. District Court in Yellowstone on July 27.
Matt Manzari, who told Cowboy State Daily that he created the video as a joke, broke the law by leaving the park’s boardwalk and walking on the thermal features near Old Faithful on July 1.
As has been customary in these cases, the defendant must appear in court in-person.
The motivational speaker from Clermont, Florida, previously told Cowboy State Daily, that he would not fight the charge.
“My statement is absolute remorse and apologies for everything,” Manzari said on July 3. “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.”
Jail time is frequently applied to cases like this. Last year, a Connecticut woman was sentenced to seven days in jail, fined $2,000, and banned from Yellowstone for two years after tourists captured video of her walking on thermal features in the Norris Geyser Basin.
In 2020, two men served time in jail, were fined hundreds of dollars and were also banned from the park after leaving the boardwalk and attempted to cook a chicken in Shoshone Geyser Basin.
Others paid a more severe penalty after leaving the path and falling through the fragile ground. One man’s body dissolved in the hot springs in 2016 and an Idaho woman suffered burns on 91 percent of her body after trying to rescue her dog last year.
Manzari said he was just trying to make a video making fun of himself and the burns he suffered in an accidental electrocution eight years ago.
In his professional life, Manzari speaks to burn victims — mostly children — and tells them not to be ashamed of their bodies. The video was a light-hearted attempt, he said, to demonstrate it’s OK to be yourself, injured or not.
“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.”
The 8–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.”