A woman who illegally entered Yellowstone National Park on Tuesday has suffered burns after accidentally falling into a thermal feature near its Old Faithful Geyser, officials said.
The park has been closed to all visitors since March 24 due to safety precautions amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Water in hot springs can cause severe or fatal burns, and scalding water underlies most of the thin, breakable crust around hot springs,” the park advises on its website. “Hot springs have injured or killed more people in Yellowstone than any other natural feature.”
The woman, who is yet to be identified, was backing up while taking photos near the famed tourist attraction and fell into a hot spring or hole where hot gases emerge, according to park spokeswoman Linda Veress.
Even with her injuries, she managed to hop back in her vehicle and drive about 50 miles until park rangers stopped her. She was then airlifted to a burn center at a hospital in Idaho.
Visitors are advised to stay on the boardwalks near Yellowstone’s often boiling or acidic thermal features, which include geysers, hot springs, steam vents, and mud pots.
This year, two tourists were sentenced to 10 days in jail for “thermal trespassing” at the hot spring last September after they were caught walking “dangerously close” to the spout of the legendary geyser and taking photos on their cellphones.
“Thermal area safety is an extremely important part of any trip to Yellowstone. We ask visitors to take the Yellowstone Pledge before coming to the park and to read the park visitor guide for more information on safety, rules, and regulations,” a spokesperson said following the incident last year.
At times, tourists have ventured off the designated walkways before being injured or killed.
Last fall, a man who was walking off a boardwalk near Old Faithful at night fell into a hot spring, suffering serious burns.
Back in June, a 23-year-old Oregon resident fell into a superheated, acidic mud pot and died. His remains couldn’t be recovered.
Yellowstone is announcing plans for a phased reopening on Wednesday. The incident remains under investigation, Veress said.