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Connecticut woman sentenced for walking on thermal area in Yellowstone National Park

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Posted at 4:38 PM, Aug 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-26 18:38:46-04

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK — The woman who reportedly walked across a restricted thermal area at Norris Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park will spend 7 days behind bars and faces numerous fines.

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Norris Geyser Basin is the hottest and most changeable thermal area in Yellowstone

Madeline S. Casey, 26, of New Hartford, Connecticut was sentenced to seven days in jail for walking on the thermal ground at Norris Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park. In addition, she was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, $40 in fees and a $1,000 community service payment to the Yellowstone Forever Geological Resource Fund. Casey appeared in front of Magistrate Judge Mark L. Carman in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming on August 18, 2021, for sentencing.

“For those who lack a natural ability to appreciate the dangerousness of crusty and 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 Acting United States Attorney Bob Murray.

Casey was with two other people as they made their way up to a thermal pool and geyser at Norris Geyser Basin. She and one other person got off the boardwalk and were walking on thermal ground. Multiple other people were concerned and took photos and videos of the three. Norris Geyser Basin is an area well marked with signs and warnings to stay on the boardwalk.

“Boardwalks in geyser basins protect visitors and delicate thermal formations,” said Yellowstone National Park Public Affairs Officer 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.”

“For those who lack a natural ability to appreciate the dangerousness of crusty and 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 Acting United States Attorney Bob Murray. “Yet there will always be those like Ms. Casey who don’t get it. Although a criminal prosecution and jail time may seem harsh, it’s better than spending time in a hospital’s burn unit.”

This case was handled by Yellowstone National Park law enforcement officers and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie Hambrick.

The incident happened on July 22, 2021. Casey must serve her jail time by January 31, 2022. Casey was also placed on non-supervised probation for a period of two years, during which time she is banned from the park.

The Yellowstone National Park website provides the following information about safety around thermal features:

  • Always walk on boardwalks and designated trails. Keep children close and do not let them run on boardwalks.
  • Do not touch thermal features or runoff.
  • Swimming or soaking in hot springs is prohibited. More than 20 people have died from burns suffered after they entered or fell into Yellowstone’s hot springs.
  • Pets are prohibited in thermal areas.
  • Do not throw objects into hot springs or other hydrothermal features.
  • Toxic gases may accumulate to dangerous levels in some hydrothermal areas. If you begin to feel sick while exploring one of our geyser basins, leave the area immediately.

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