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Young Woman Dies After Being Submerged in Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park


A young woman from Taiwan visiting Yellowstone National Park has died from injuries sustained when she slipped into the Firehole River near Old Faithful, according to park officials.

The 22-year-old woman fell into the river Tuesday afternoon, a park release said. Lin Ching-Ling, a Taiwanese national, apparently fell into the river about 1:30 p.m. and was submerged for about five minutes before another visitor dived in and pulled her out from about 10 feet under water, the release said.

He then brought her to the water’s edge, yelled for help, and immediately began CPR.

A doctor and two nurses who happened to be in the area quickly took over CPR efforts, the release said. When park paramedics and rangers arrived, CPR was continued for about 40 minutes on-scene, when the patient regained a pulse. She was then taken by ambulance to Madison Junction where a waiting helicopter transported her to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center.

According to hospital officials, she was pronounced dead at 10:10 p.m. Tuesday.


there is a "tunnel". its very short maybe 1-2 feet. 25-30 inches wide im guessing. i went through it. its about 15-20 feet down from the highest part where the idiots jump from and get fined $200. 100 for climbing, 100 for jumping. i have also reached the bottom and stood there for 5 seconds! the bottom is 33 feet i was told by a diver.

The park keeps the swimming area closed until the flow rate is below 300 cfs for 3 consecutive days. You can watch it online just google waterdata firehole river near west yellowstone. They keep it closed until then for the safety of people who may not have enough training or experience to handle more difficult water conditions.

I have been swimming at the firehole swimming hole with my family for many years, since my kids were very young. We consider it the highlight of our trip whenever we go to the park. But I have always made my kids and have myself worn a lifejacket when in the river for all of the above mentioned reasons, eg current, darkness of the water, etc. I told a good friend about the swimming hole and she went up there yesterday, 7/8, with her kids to swim only to find out the it was roped off and closed. I agree that people have to be responsible, everythings can't be made safe. I hope that Yellowstone officials reconsider and re-open the swimming area.

In response to the question of whether there is a tunnel or not, I have used scuba in that swimming hole, including up underneath the rapids at the beginning of the swimming hole many times.  There is not a tunnel. There is however, a narrow channel that drops over 2 different ledges until you reach the bottom at about 30 feet.  The bottom is roughly straight out from the cave, and has a current that moves in a circle.  The water then pushes up and spreads out into the more calm area at the bottom end of the swimming hole.  At different times of the year, the current acts very different depending the volume of water comming down the river.  On a normal year, the water flow is to high and fast to swim much before July 4. There is a small cave in the side of the bottom hole, but it doesn't effect the current. Usually when a person jumps out into the rapids, they will go under water for a few seconds then float to the surface for the rest of the ride.  If we are planning a trip there, we throw in some life jackets so we don't have to worry about the little ones or those who might not be comfortable in the currents.  It is a great place, and our family has spent many enjoyable hours there over the past 50 years.  We still enjoy it with our grand children and now great grand child. 

I wasn't there nore have i met anyone in her family but i give my best wishes ans condolances to her family just becase i'm a teen dosn't mean i cant be poliht but i do have a question wouldn't the people in her party have noticed her gone and how did she slip in the first place. thirdly it takes at least two hours for the body to lose all of the oxogen and make us sink but it was only five mins so shuoldn't she have floated?

I m so shocked that the news in tw didn't even report this accident. The young and brilliant lady died in foreign in peace.

There was a very nice young lady from Taiwan who worked at Glacier Park last summer. Her American name was also Irene but I don't know her true name. I saw this comment and my heart sank.

Thank you so much for your reply, anonymous! You have answered my questions and given me some peace of mind, as well as some VERY valuable information about the undertows and currents. I hope that a lot of people will read these messages so that your information can help to keep others safe. (Which is one reason why I wrote such a long message with so much detail.)

It sounds like Lin probably didn't die from an undertow, but simply because of not knowing how to swim. She must have fallen in by accident, either from the shore or by slipping into deep water while wading on slippery rocks in shallow water. It's just heartbreaking.

As Cheryl Gilbert said above, this is the third drowning at the Firehole River swimming area.

The first was in 1975. The only info I could find about it was in the book "Death In Yellowstone," by Lee H. Whittlesey. He says, "James M. Thompson, 17, of Bozeman, Montana, drowned in it on the evening of August 9, 1975, while swimming with a friend. Thompson was floating in rapids, went down, and failed to come up." This does sound like it may have been due to an undertow, and possibly in the same place where I got into trouble (i.e. "in rapids".)

The second was in 2003. According to a Yellowstone NP press release: "Yellowstone National Park officials report that a 15-year-old girl drowned while swimming at a popular swimming area on the Firehole Canyon Drive, located about two miles south of Madison Junction. The incident occurred around 5:00 pm, Wednesday, August 06, 2003.

Lisbeth Clair Skollingsberg of Boise, Idaho, was visiting the park with her mother, two brothers, and friends. She and one of the brothers were swimming in a channel that runs through a gorge that empties into a swimming hole on the river. The brother stated that Lisbeth pinched her nose and ducked under the water but failed to resurface. The family looked for her for approximately ten minutes then summoned help from other visitors swimming in the area. After searching another 10 minutes, a park visitor saw her legs sticking out of an overhanging ledge under the water. Park visitors immediately removed Lisbeth from the water and started CPR; other visitors reported the incident by calling 911 on their cell phones.

Park staff immediately responded to the scene and continued CPR, as well as advance life support procedures. They continued their efforts until 6:30 pm when Lisbeth was declared dead at the scene. She was not wearing a life preserver, as the National Park Service strongly recommends."

Lisbeth's drowning sounds like it may have been caused by being dragged partially into the underwater cave. I'm thinking that perhaps swimming just on the surface (as my son and I did without any problems at that specific place) in this middle cove might be safer than diving deep, unless you have scuba equipment.

BTW, I never saw anyone wearing life preservers. I can see why people who know how to swim wouldn't think them necessary there - it certainly never occurred to me to wear one at the time. But a life vest might make all the difference with the undertows. I'm going to wear one if I ever swim there again, I don't care how silly I look!

Also BTW, there were two drownings in the other Yellowstone swimming hole, at Boiling River (as of 1995, when the "Death in Yellowstone" book was written; and I didn't find any more recent incidents online.) That really surprised me, as the water there is very shallow (rarely over knee-deep when I was there last week in early August) although there is a strong current. However, both of those drownings occurred at night and at times of unusually high water (Feb. and May.) That area is now closed to swimming at such times.

If safety is your concern or you are not a strong swimmer, I would recommend the Boiling River swimming hole instead of the Firehole River one. It is also much warmer and more comfortable, like a spa. (In fact, most people don't want to get too close to where the hot water flows into the cold river.)

But I have to admit that Firehole River is more thrilling, and deep enough for real swimming, rather than just wading or sitting and relaxing in the water. Just read all the comments on this thread and be very careful if you go there!

I hope this helps to keep people safe!

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