Fatal Fall At Yellowstone Hot Springs

Y E L L O W S T O N E   N A T I O N A L   P A R K, Wyo., Aug. 22, 2000 -- A park concessionemployee died today after falling into a 178-degree hot springand two others were in critical condition.

Sara Hulphers, of Oroville, Wash., died about 15 hours after theaccident late today. The 20-year-old woman died from complicationsfrom very severe burns, said Chris Nelson, spokesman for Universityof Utah’s Intermountain Burn Center in Salt Lake City.

The accident occurred in the Lower Geyser Basin near OldFaithful, roughly in the middle of the park.

According to park spokeswoman Cheryl Matthews, the three werereturning from a swim in the Firehole River when friends heardtheir cries between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. Monday. They fell intoCavern Spring, a 178-degree pool about 10 feet deep, she said.

The three were trying to navigate the geyser basin in the darkhours after sunset and before the moon rose, said park spokeswomanMarsha Karle. Rangers spoke with park concession employees anddetermined alcohol likely was not a factor in the accident, shesaid.

Lucky SurvivorsYellowstone’s hot springs are often surrounded by thin, fragilecrusts and numerous warning signs are posted. Visitors to the LowerGeyser Basin are urged to stay on a half-mile boardwalk over thetreacherous terrain.

“I would not venture off this boardwalk. You couldn’t pay meenough to set foot off this,” said Carla Wilson, of Denver, whowas visiting Yellowstone with her mother.

Hulphers had third-degree burns over her entire body. TylerMontague, 18, had second- and third-degree burns over 97 percent ofhis body, and Lance Buchi, 18, had third-degree burns over 90percent of his body, park officials said.

Matthews said some of the friends stayed with Hulphers whileothers helped Montague and Buchi walk to their cars about a quarterof a mile away.

“It’s pretty remarkable that they walked these two young menout, which took some time because they were pretty hurt,” shesaid.

All three worked in the Old Faithful area; Hulphers in the OldFaithful Inn employee dining room, Buchi in housekeeping at the innand Tyler at the Old Faithful Lodge kitchen.