Yellowstone Floating Foot: Pathologist Says Human Body Likely Dissolved, Foot Protected By Shoe

A forensic pathologist told Cowboy State Daily that a high-quality shoe likely preserved the foot of a man who died in a Yellowstone hot pool this summer while the rest of his body completely dissolved.

Mark Heinz

November 22, 20222 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

A stout shoe is probably what preserved a foot found floating in a Yellowstone hot pool, while the rest of the body and clothing completely dissolved, a forensic pathologist said. 

“Between the heat and the minerals in those pools, a body will completely dissolve,” Dr. Thomas Bennett of Sheridan told Cowboy State Daily. “This would happen rapidly.”

A shoe or boot made from leather or a similarly robust material was probably the only thing that kept the food intact, he said. 

Bennett said he was familiar with the case, as well of others involving bodies being lost in Yellowstone hot pools. 

“I was astonished that they were able to find any remains at all,” he said. 

Remains Allowed Positive Identification

The foot was found floating in the Abyss Pool in the West Thumb Geyser Basin in August. The pool is one of the deepest in Yellowstone, with water temperatures of roughly 140 degrees. 

It was confirmed last week that the foot was the last remains of II Hun Ro, 70, of Los Angeles. He was last seen alive July 7 in Yellowstone. 

No foul play was suspected in his death, according to the National Park Service.

Heat And Minerals 

Alkaline and acidic elements in the Yellowstone pools make them apt to dissolve bodies and most clothing, right down to the molecular level, Bennett said. 

“The calcium in our bones interacts with the alkaline elements in the water and they disintegrate,” he said. “Most clothing will disintegrate even more quickly than the body will.”

It’s not known whether Hun Ro fell into the pool accidently or went in deliberately. 

Bennett said that over the years, he’s dealt with many cases of people thought to have killed themselves in Yellowstone, including by immersing themselves in hot pools. 

Without suicide notes or some other solid proof of the deceased’s intentions, it’s impossible to know, he said. 

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Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter