On Tuesday, June 13, a man who possibly stayed off the demarcated paths in the Yellowstone National Park fell into a boiling spring and sustained severe burns. Twenty-one-year-old Gervais Dylan Gatete, from North Carolina, was exploring the park with a group of friends when he slipped into the geyser.
Officials have not been able to locate the exact spot where Gatete plunged into the hot spring. However, they have said that it was near the area of the Lower Geyser Basin, just north of the Yellowstone main attraction, Old Faithful.
Gatete, who is an employee of the Xanterra Parks and Resorts travel company, was initially transported by members of his group, but eventually flagged down a park ranger near the Yellowstone West Entrance Road.
The Yellowstone Ranger arranged for an ambulance to fetch Gatete, who was immediately taken to the West Yellowstone Airport from where he was flown to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City to receive urgent medical treatment.
As reported by East Idaho News, Gatete is said to be in a critical condition.
On the Yellowstone National Park website, the Lower Geyser Basin is described as an area measuring 18 square miles, roughly four-fifths the size of Manhattan Island in New York City.
According to the park website, the Lower Geyser Basin is 18 square miles, about four-fifths the size of the island of Manhattan.
“It consists of a flat plain interspersed with meadows and stands of lodgepole pine, with the Firehole River flowing through the central part of the basin.”
The water in the Yellowstone hot springs can exceed temperatures of 200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the temperature at which water starts to boil. Last year the hot springs claimed two victims who also fell into the scalding water.
Twenty-three-year-old Colin Nathaniel Scott stepped off the safe boardwalk and slipped into a spring near the Norris Basin Geyser. The water was reported to have been at a temperature of 212 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a statement featured in an edition of East Idaho News, the Yellowstone National Park officials confirmed that “recovery efforts have been terminated in part because we have not been able to locate any remains, unfortunately.”
Scott’s body was never found.
The video below gives an indication of just how piping hot the Yellowstone springs are, showing the water boiling as if it were in a large kettle.
Dan Wenk, a Yellowstone Superintendent, reminded members of the public that while the thermal features of the park may look innocuous, they are in fact extremely dangerous. He also urged visiters to remain on the safely marked routes and boardwalks as the ground surrounding the Yellowstone geysers is very thin and will give way quickly.
“Yellowstone’s thermal features are dangerous. We continually stress that people must stay on trails and boardwalks in geyser basins, not only to protect resources, but for their own safety.”
Although this is the first incident this year, the Yellowstone National Park has claimed more than 20 victims during the last century. In 2000, a group of three veered off the demarcated path, resulting in the death of one and severe burns for the other two.
In 1981, twenty-four-year-old Californian David Allen Kirwan was with his friend, Ronald Ratliff, in the vicinity of Yellowstone’s Fountain Paint Pot thermal area when Ratliff’s dog jumped into a spring boiling at over 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Kirwan’s instinct kicked in, and he began to run towards the dog to save it. Many other Yellowstone visitors who witnessed the incident tried to warn Kirwan that he shouldn’t enter the water. Nevertheless, Kirwan allegedly shouted “like hell I won’t!” and dove head-first into the spring.
Kirwan managed to rescue the dog, place it on land and lift himself out of the water with the help of Ratliff. But it was too late for Kirwan and the dog. As a bystander led Kirwan away from the spring, he allegedly said, “that was stupid. How bad am I? That was a stupid thing I did.”
The searing water had blinded Kirwan, and when Yellowstone helpers tried to remove his shoes, his skin came off. He had begun to peel all over his body, which had sustained third-degree burns over 100 percent of its surface area.
Kirwan and the dog succumbed to their wounds and passed away the following day. Meanwhile, Ratliff sustained second-degree burns to his feet and ankles after stepping into the shallow part of the spring to rescue his friend.
Yellowstone National Park officials have said that they could not stress enough how important it was for park visitors not to underestimate the temperature of the water. Anyone who does so will almost certainly sustain very serious, often even fatal burns.
[Featured Image by Julie Jacobson/AP Images]