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Two men who walked on the cone of Old Faithful Geyser in September have been sentenced to jail time, fines, probation and a multi-year ban from Yellowstone National Park.

The sentences were announced Thursday in a press release from the park.  

Eric Schefflin, 20 and Ryan Goetz, 25, committed the offense on Sept. 10 at about 8:30 p.m. Park employees and visitors saw Schefflin and Goetz walking on the cone and reported it to park dispatch, after which a ranger contacted and cited the men.

Schefflin is from Lakewood, Colorado. Goetz is from Woodstock, New York.

Schefflin and Goetz were sentenced by U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Carman at the Yellowstone Justice Center in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming. 

The complete sentence for Schefflin and Goetz includes 10 days of incarceration, $540 in restitution, five years of unsupervised probation and a five year ban from the park. 

Park spokesperson Linda Veress said Thursday afternoon there was one other incident from September 2019 when a man walking on Old Faithful Geyser near the cone fell inside and was severely burned. A park press release from September described how 48-year-old Cade Edmond Siemers suffered "severe burns to a significant portion of his body after falling into thermal water" near the geyser's cone. 

At the time rangers detected alcohol use. Veress could not immediately say whether Schefflin and Goetz gave a reason for walking across Old Faithful.

Veress reiterated that it is illegal to walk on thermal features or go off boardwalks and established trails in thermal areas in Yellowstone National Park. She said the intention of the law is both to protect the thermal features of the park from damage and to protect people from harm since thermal waters in the park are typically very hot and acidic. As evidence, she pointed to an instance in 2016 when a man left the boardwalk, slipped into a hot spring at Norris Geyser Basin and died. 

The water temperature at the vent of Old Faithful has been measured at 204 degrees, and the steam temperature has been measured above 350 degrees, according to park information.

When people do walk off trail and onto thermal features, the features usually sustain some kind of damage, and there's no guarantee the park can do anything to reverse it, according to Veress. "The damage is already done by that point," she said. 

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Asked generally how often people trespass on thermal features in the park, Veress did not have a number on hand. The most recent incident, she said, happened in late December, when two people walked on Old Faithful Geyser. Veress said a video had been circulating of the incident and that visitors who saw it happen reported it to a park ranger. 

Visitors walking on Old Faithful

A screenshot of Old Faithful webcam footage showing two visitors walking on the Old Faithful Geyser on Dec. 27, 2019. 

"The rangers were able to make contact with those individuals and they were cited," she said. Further details about the December 2019 incident were not immediately available.


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