Heedless of the danger, saving his dog was the only thing on this man’s mind before jumping into the hot springs…
The hot springs found in abundance throughout Yellowstone National Park’s thermal areas are bubbling cauldrons of steam and boiling water, most of them hotter than 150° F, and many of the in the 185° – 205°F range. (Due to the elevation, water boils at about 198° in Yellowstone.)
Nineteen scalding deaths have been recorded in connection with Yellowstone’s hot springs since 1870, all of them known or believed to have involved people who inadvertently fell into the springs through accident or carelessness – all except one.
|This terrible tragedy reminded us of a scene from a movie - 'Dante’s Peak'. |
Kirwan and Ratliff rushed over to the pool to aid the terrified dog, and Kirwan’s attitude indicated he was about to go into the spring after it. According to bystanders, several people tried to warn Kirwan off by yelling at him not to jump in, but he shouted “Like hell I won’t!” back at them, took two steps into the pool, and then dove head-first into the boiling spring.
Kirwan swam out to the dog and attempted to take it to shore; he then disappeared underwater, let go of the dog, and tried to climb out of the pool. Ratliff helped pull Kirwan out of the hot spring (resulting in second-degree burns to his own feet), and another visitor led Kirwan to the sidewalk as he reportedly muttered, “That was stupid. How bad am I? That was a stupid thing I did.”
|Colorful thermal pool in the Fountain Paint Pot area of Yellowstone National Park |
– Photo by Frank Kovalchek
Kirwan was indeed in very bad shape. He was blind, and when another park visitor tried to remove one of his shoes, his skin (which was already peeling everywhere) came off with it. He sustained third-degree burns to 100 percent of his body, including his head, and died the following morning at a Salt Lake City hospital. Needless to say, Moosie the dog, did not survive, either.
Did You Know?
- Fountain Paint Pot is a mudpot or mud pool — a sort of acidic hot spring, with a limited water supply. Some microorganisms use hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg smell), which rises from deep within the earth, as an energy source. They convert the gas into sulfuric acid, which breaks down rock into clay.
- Unlike this story, nineteen scalding deaths recorded in connection with Yellowstone’s hot springs since 1870, were all believed to have involved people who inadvertently fell into the springs through accident or carelessness. “Death in Yellowstone,” a book by park historian Lee H. Whittlesey, says that by 1993 there were 19 known human deaths, seven of them children, from hot springs in the park. Many others have been badly injured.
- Yet another (non-fatal) incident of this type occurred in Yellowstone in 2001 when a 39-year-old tourist from Washington state entered a thermal pool in an attempt to rescue a dog which had bolted from his family’s motor home and jumped into the scalding waters. The man was fortunate to have suffered only second-degree burns and was released from the hospital the next day.And recently as October 10th 2014, another man was hospitalized in Reno after he jumped into a hot spring at Black Rock Desert in an effort to save a dog from the scalding waters.
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