Yellowstone tourist sentenced to 7 days in jail over 'dangerous' caught-on-camera incident

Lynwood, Washington, resident Viktor Pyshniuk, far left, was photographed while trespassing near a Yellowstone National Park geyser. (Yellowstone National Park)

Yellowstone National Park recently announced that one of its tourists was sentenced to one week in jail after trespassing into a "dangerous" geothermal area.

The national park, which is mostly located in Wyoming, shared a Department of Justice (DOJ) press release about the sentencing on June 13. Lynwood, Washington, resident Viktor Pyshniuk was handed a seven-day jail sentence over the trespassing incident.

Officials say the 21-year-old man wandered away from the boardwalk area at Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone's Norris Geyser Basin during his visit. According to the DOJ, the Steamboat Geyser is the world’s tallest active geyser and is "the most dangerous" geyser in the world.

"It has erratic and unpredictable eruptions that can rise anywhere from six to 300 feet high," officials said.


According to the DOJ, a National Park Service (NPS) employee had reported seeing someone "walking off the boardwalk" near the geyser. Pyshniuk reportedly told the NPS officer that he was trying to get pictures of the hot spring.

"The employee had taken a photo of the defendant who had clearly crossed over the fence and was walking up the hillside within 15-20 feet of Steamboat Geyser’s steam vent," the DOJ explained. "When contacted, Pyshniuk told the officer he left the boardwalk to take photos."

"While speaking with Pyshniuk, the officer showed him the signs posted throughout the area stating it is illegal to leave the boardwalk and explained that walking in a thermal area is very dangerous due to possible weak ground layer, the geothermal features of mud pots, heated steam and water, and all other dangers associated with walking in a heated, unpredictable geothermal area."

In addition to his jail sentence, Pyshniuk was also ordered to pay $1,550 in fines and has been placed on two years of unsupervised release. The man is also banned from Yellowstone National Park for two years.

Magistrate Judge Stephanie A. Hambrick designed the sentence to "deter [Pyshniuk], specifically, but also the public from leaving the boardwalk in this area."

"She expressed her concern that the defendant’s actions were seen by the people around him, and they might have thought it was okay to do the same thing," the DOJ said. "And if every visitor to [Yellowstone] disobeyed the rules, the park would be destroyed, and no-one would be able to enjoy it."

Acting United States Attorney Eric Heimann said in a statement that trespassing into thermal areas of Yellowstone is "dangerous and harms the natural resource."

"In cases like this one where we have strong evidence showing a person has willfully disregarded signs and entered a closed, thermal area, federal prosecutors will seek significant penalties, including jail time," Heimann said.

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