Billings, Montana — An Oregon tourist had a fatal fall into hot springs and died a gruesome death at Yellowstone National Park.
Colin Scott, 23, of Portland, Oregon, perished on June 7, 2016, after slipping into one of the park’s scalding natural thermal springs.
Yellowstone is known worldwide for its Old Faithful Geyser, as well as for other geothermal features, such as hot springs, mud pots, and fumaroles (openings in the earth’s crust that emit steam and gases).
Scott was visiting the park with his sister, Sable Scott, as part of his college graduation trip. His death occurred the day after six other tourists were cautioned and cited for being off-trail at the park’s Grand Prismatic Spring, America’s biggest hot spring and the world’s third largest.
Officials say Colin was looking for a place to “hot pot”.
“Hot potting” refers to soaking one’s body in one of the park’s steaming pools — an activity prohibited throughout Yellowstone because it’s dangerous. Water in the pools can reach 205 degrees Fahrenheit, causing third-degree burns within seconds of immersion. Some individuals have emerged from “hot potting” with peeling skin and blinded by heat.
Nevertheless, the park’s water is believed to have healing properties. Indeed, a week after Colin’s death, a Chinese tourist was caught trying to collect water for medicinal purposes from the park’s Mammoth Hot Springs. The tourist, who broke through the area’s fragile crust, was fined $1,000.
The spot Colin chose was Norris Geyser Basin which is the hottest geyser basin in the park. It includes a boiling and acidic pool that is 6 feet long, 4 feet wide, and 10 feet deep. According to Yellowstonepark.com, North Geyser Basin…
“claims the record for the highest temperature ever recorded in any of Yellowstone’s geothermal areas. There, a scientific-drill hole just 1,087 feet below the surface measured temperatures at a roiling 459°F”
In a National Park Service incident report, Scott’s sister Sable told investigators that she and her brother left a public boardwalk area and walked several hundred feet up a hill.
Deputy Chief Ranger Lorant Veress confirmed that Sable and Colin were looking for “a place that they could potentially get into and soak.”
Sable Scott reportedly recorded cell-phone video of her brother’s gruesome and tragic death.
The incident report said Colin Scott had reached down into the water to check its temperature when he slipped and fell into the thermal pool. Sable’s struggles to save her brother were recorded on the video, according to investigators.
A search-and-rescue team was called. They could see Colin’s dead body floating in the pool, but a sudden lightning storm caused recovery efforts to be called off. The following day, the only thing rescuers were able to recover were his flip flops floating on the edge of the bubbling hot spring.
No human remains were ever recovered. According to authorities,
Colin’s body completely dissolved in the pool’s bubbling acidic waters.
As Veress put it,
“In a very short order, there was a significant amount of dissolving.”
The incident report about Scott’s death showed images of warning signs about the dangers of straying from walkways in the area where Scott died, as well as warnings about the park’s various geothermal features.
The park did not issue any citations in the case.
Records affirm that since 1890, 22 people have been killed by exposure to Yellowstone’s dangerous geothermal features — far more than have died from grizzly bear attacks or lightning strikes in the area.