Woman Who Walked Over Yellowstone Geyser Sentenced to Jail

Woman Who Walked Over Yellowstone Geyser Sentenced to Jail

A 26-year-old Connecticut woman faces a week in jail and more than $2,000 in fines after walking off-trail and onto thermal ground at Yellowstone National Park.   

While the sentence handed down to Madeline S. Casey of New Hartford may seem harsh, Acting US Attorney Bob Murray said, ‘it’s better than spending time in a hospital’s burn unit.’

Casey and another hiker stepped off the boardwalk near the Norris Geyser Basin on July 22, according to the Wyoming U.S. Attorney’s Office, and walked toward a thermal pool.

‘It does suck, but I’m not going to comment now,’ Casey said to MailOnline. She was sentenced August 18.

 ‘For those who lack [the] ability to appreciate the dangerousness of… unstable ground, boiling water, and scalding mud, the National Park Service does a darn good job of warning them to stay on the boardwalk and trail in thermal areas, said Murray. 

‘Yet there will always be those like Ms. Casey who don’t get it.’

Madeline S. Casey of New Hartford (pictured), 26, faces a week in jail and more than $2,000 in fines after walking off-trail on thermal ground at Yellowstone National Park 

‘Yet there will always be those like Ms. Casey who don’t get it,’ said US Attorney Bob Murray in a press release. ‘Although a criminal prosecution and jailtime may seem harsh, it’s better than spending time in a hospital’s burn unit.’

Casey was caught traversing the unstable, off-limits thermal ground by other parkgoers, who showed cellphone footage to rangers

Casey has until the end of January to serve her jail time and make the community service payment. She has until December 2022 to pay the fine, said Mark Trimble, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Wyoming.

The Norris Geyser Basin is one of the largest thermal areas in Yellowstone, according to the park service, as well as the hottest. Nearly all of the areas over 1,000 thermal features are above boiling point, which is 199 degrees at the site’s elevation.

Public Relations Contractor Lori Hogan with the Wyoming U.S. Attorney’s office told MailOnline that other parkgoers captured Casey traversing the prohibited area near Cistern Spring their cellphones, then showed their footage to park rangers. 

The trio were detained at Yellowstone, she said; her two companions were not charged by police. Casey was charged with the class 6 misdemeanor of walking off-trail in a thermal area. 

According to Casey’s citation, obtained from the Wyoming U.S. Attorney’s office, she was accompanied by a man without shoes or a shirt when she tread on the prohibited area, and the third person was ‘encouraging [Casey and the man] to trespass.’

When police approached the group, the citation said, two of the three were drinking White Claws. 

 ‘It is unusual that, in this particular case, she was jailed for 7 days,’ said Hogan.

 ‘[But] it is very dangerous to walk off-trail – the ground is very fragile in thermal areas. 

‘It looks like solid ground, but sometimes it’s a very thin layer over scalding water.’

‘For those who lack [the] ability to appreciate the dangerousness of… unstable ground, boiling water, and scalding mud, the National Park Service does a darn good job of warning them to stay on the boardwalk and trail in thermal areas, said Murray. 

Madeline S. Casey of New Hartford (pictured), 26, faces a week in jail and more than $2,000 in fines after walking off-trail on thermal ground at Yellowstone National Park

In 2016, the body of 23-year-old Colin Scott (pictured) dissolved in boiling, acidic waters at the Norris Geyser Basin after he and his sister diverted from the boardwalk and he slipped while checking the temperature of a hot spring he hoped to soak, or ‘hot pot’ in.

‘Yet there will always be those like Ms. Casey who don’t get it.’

Casey, who owns Main Stream Canoe and Kayak in New Hartford, has until the end of January to serve her jail time and make the community service payment.

She has until December 2022 to pay her fines, said Mark Trimble, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Wyoming. 

In 2016, the body of 23-year-old Colin Scott dissolved in boiling, acidic waters at the Norris Geyser Basin after he and his sister diverted from the boardwalk and he slipped while checking the temperature of a hot spring he hoped to soak in.

A 3-year-old girl suffered second-degree burns in 2020 after running off the boardwalk and slipping into a small thermal feature, park officials reported. 

In May 2020, another woman was injured after she backed up and fell into a hot spring while taking a photo. In September, a man suffered severe burns after falling into thermal water near the cone of Old Faithful Geyser.

In June 2017, a man was severely burned after falling into a hot spring in the Lower Geyser Basin. 

‘Boardwalks in geyser basins protect visitors and delicate thermal formations,’ said park spokesperson Morgan Warthin.  

‘The ground is fragile and thin and scalding water just below the surface can cause severe or fatal burns. More than 20 people have died from burns suffered after they entered or fell into Yellowstone’s hot springs.’

The Norris Geyser Basin is one of the largest thermal areas in Yellowstone, according to the park service, as well as the hottest. Nearly all of the areas over 1,000 thermal features are above boiling point, which is 199 degrees at the site’s elevation.

‘Hot springs have injured or killed more people in Yellowstone than any other natural feature,’ the Yellowstone website says.

A thousand dollars of Casey’s fines will go toward the Yellowstone Forever Geological Resource Fund, Yellowstone’s nonprofit partner, the Wyoming DOJ said.  

TWENTY HAVE DIED AFTER FALLING INTO YELLOWSTONE HOT SPRINGS

According to the 1995 book ‘Death in Yellowstone’ and subsequent news reports, there have been at least 20 recorded cases where people died from being burned in hot springs in the park. 

– One of the earliest recorded fatal cases occurred in 1905, when four-year-old Lester LaDuke fell into a bathing spring north of the park. Later the same year, Fannie Weeks, 40, died in the same way. 

– On June 29, 1970, a nine-year-old boy fell into a spring after being blinded by hot vapor. The death of Andy Hecht led to a successful push by the boy’s parents for more funding for National Park Services safety officers and increased security precautions in national parks.

Vapor rises at the Norris Geyser Basin. At least twenty people have died from falling into hot springs in Yellowstone 

– On June 20, 1981, a man dove into a thermal spring – which was later measured at 202 degrees Fahrenheit – in order to save his friend’s dog, which had fallen in. David Kirwan, 24, died after suffering third-degree burns across one-hundred percent of his body.

– In August, 2000, 20-year-old Sara Hulphers died after she fell into a thermal spring at the Lower Geyser Basin at Yellowstone. According to news reports, she fell in along with two friends as they were hiking back from a nighttime swim in a nearby river. The friends, who were both 18 years old, were transported to hospital in critical condition with third-degree burns, but appeared to have survived. 

Source: ‘Death in Yellowstone‘ by Lee H. Whittlesey (1995); Bozeman Daily Chronicle

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