Yellowstone Revealed: Death in Yellowstone

(Editor’s note: This year marks Yellowstone National Park’s 150th anniversary. In honor of this historic milestone, we bring you a new series entitled Yellowstone Revealed. These reports offer a glimpse into the park’s colorful history and the Stories you’ve probably never heard before. The second part – “Death in Yellowstone” – explores the sometimes grisly ways visitors died in and around the world’s first national park.)

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK — Yellowstone officials have completed their investigation into the summer incident in which a human foot was found in a hot spring near West Thumb.

They revealed the victim was 70-year-old Il Hun Ro of Los Angeles, California, and it was confirmed to have died of thermal-related causes.

Are hot springs or bears more dangerous in the park?

In the Norris Geyser Basin on June 8, 2016, park rangers attempted to recover the body of a man who fell into a hot spring the day before. Recovery was delayed by a storm on the first day, and the next day the 212-degree acidic water left nothing to recover.

A partially redacted report of the incident, released after a Freedom of Information Act request, revealed that the man’s sister, who was with him, videotaped his slide into the hot pool. The two had hiked up a slope several hundred feet above the boardwalk, where signs had warned visitors to stay.

“They were specifically moving in that area, looking for somewhere they could possibly get to and soak. I think they call it ‘hotpotting,'” Deputy Chief Ranger Laurent Veress said.

A year earlier, a park concessionaire employee was killed by a grizzly bear near the Elephant Back Trailhead in the park’s Fishing Bridge area. The death drew national attention as the third bear-related death within the park in two summers.

Outside of the park, there have been other deadly grizzly attacks.

Near Yellowstone’s east entrance, a Shoshone Forest cabin owner was killed in June 2010 after hiking into the area where a grizzly boar had been released after being caught and drugged by federal investigators.

Another man was killed earlier that year at the Soda Butte Campground just outside of Cooke City near the northeast entrance to Yellowstone. The man was attacked while sleeping in a tent.

But overall, only eight people have been killed by bear attacks at Yellowstone since it opened in 1872.

So what is Yellowstone National Park’s deadliest feature?

“Death in Yellowstone,” written by retired Yellowstone historian Lee Whittlesey, has the answer.

They are lakes.

Along with the eight people killed by bears since the park opened in 1872, there have been 22 deaths related to thermal features during the same period.

But in the last century and a half, 123 people have drowned in Yellowstone’s frigid waters.

TIED TOGETHER: Yellowstone Revealed: “Lost in Yellowstone”