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Man jailed for Old Faithful 'stunt'
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Man jailed for Old Faithful 'stunt'

Yellowstone

Tourists watch Old Faithful erupt from the boardwalk surrounding the geyser on Aug. 13, 2019 in Yellowstone National Park. 

CASPER, Wyo. — A judge sentenced a Maine man to serve 15 days in jail for running onto Old Faithful geyser as part of what authorities say was a stunt to gain attention.

Aaron E. Merritt, 37, pleaded guilty Thursday to trespassing on a Yellowstone National Park thermal area, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for Wyoming. He has already spent four days in jail, meaning he will still have 11 days to serve behind bars.

Magistrate Judge Mark Carmen also banned Merritt from Yellowstone and fined him $200.

View some of Yellowstone National Parks most beautiful sights from Old Faithful in the evening to sunrise at West Thumb Geyser Basin.

On July 7, 2020, Merritt ran up to Old Faithful multiple times while wearing a raccoon skin hat and waiving an American flag, according to the U.S. Attorney's office. He also failed to appear for a court hearing a few weeks later.

“Yellowstone National Park has rules and regulations in place to protect park resources and help keep visitors safe,” Acting United States Attorney Bob Murray said in a  statement. “This case ended with federal charges and time in prison, but it could have been much worse. If Mr. Merrick had fallen through the thermal feature, he would have most likely lost his life.”

Authorities arrested Merritt on June 5. He was arraigned and sentenced at the Yellowstone Justice Center inside the park on Thursday.

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Small hydrothermal explosions — steam blasts — are common at Yellowstone National Park, occurring every year or two. Most happen in the backcountry and are not observed by people. In 1989, however, Porkchop Geyser blew up right in front of several observers on an otherwise sunny September afternoon.

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