A large lodgepole pine tree is responsible for the death of a 36-year-old Taiwanese tourist who was killed on Monday afternoon while hiking at Yellowstone National Park. The man has yet to be publicly identified pending notification of his family.
The tree reportedly fell and struck the man on his head. The tourist was part of a hiking group that was out walking the popular Fairy Falls trail which lies north of Old Faithful. At some point, the man left the trail to climb a tree-covered slope which would have afforded him a better view of the Grand Prismatic Spring.
After the accident, the man was moved by rangers to the trailhead to await transport by helicopter to a nearby medical facility. However, attempts to revive the victim failed. He was subsequently pronounced dead at the scene.
The tree most likely fell due to damage sustained from the wildfires of 1998 combined with Monday's windy weather conditions. The 1998 wildfires at Yellowstone were the largest ever recorded, the fire raged at the national park for months and burned approximately 800,000 acres inside Yellowstone and another 400,000 acres around the park. It was the first time in the park's history that it was completely closed to visitors since it opened in 1872.
It is estimated that three million people visit the park every year. However, the park is not without its dangers. There is of course the possibility of a wild animal attack, fatal or life threatening slips and falls, and the potential to get too close to one the park's many hot geysers and thermal springs.
Park Chief Officer Brandon Gauthier spoke about informing Yellowstone visitors, "We try to educate people starting when they come through the gate." He added, "There are a lot more people around geothermal areas than in the backcountry, and the unwary can get hurt badly if they stray off established paths. There are many risks in Yellowstone. It’s something you’ve got to respect and pay attention to.”
Monday's incident is currently under investigation by the National Park Service.
Image via Twitter, YellowstoneNPS