Buchi v. United States of America, U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming, WY (2001)

On the night of Aug. 21, 2000, plaintiff Lance Buchi was walking with Tyler Montague and Sara Hulphers back to their cars after swimming at the Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park. The three, walking without a flashlight, encountered what they believed to be a small stream. However, the three individuals had actually fallen into Cavern Spring, a large thermal feature at the basin which has temperatures in excess of 178 degrees Fahrenheit.

Montague and Buchi were able to get out of the pool on their own, assisted to their vehicles, and taken back to Old Faithful by friends where they received emergency medical treatment from Yellowstone National Park staff. Friends helped Hulphers from the pool and remained with her until help could arrive, about 30 minutes later. Yellowstone National Park staff provided on-site emergency medical treatment and then placed her on a wheeled litter for transport to the roadway where she was placed in an ambulance. Ambulances transported the three individuals to the West Yellowstone, Montana airport where they were air lifted by Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center AirLife and Bannock helicopters to Idaho Falls, Idaho, airport. From there they were taken by fixed wing to the Salt Lake City Burn Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Hulphers received third degree burns over her entire body and died from her injuries. Montague received second and third degree burns over 90 percent of his body; and Buchi received third degree burns over 90 percent of his body.

Medical expenses exceeded $1 million for Buchi and are expected to grow throughout his life.

However, a verdict was ultimately rendered for the defendant as a judge threw out the lawsuit based upon the idea that the plaintiff was the cause of his own injury by way of his negligent acts and omissions, including unlawfully walking in a thermal area of the park, away from any boardwalk or trail.

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