Judge Dismisses Lawsuit by Yellowstone Burn Victim

Judge Dismisses Lawsuit by Yellowstone Burn Victim

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A Wyoming judge has thrown out a lawsuit against the National Park Service by a Utah man who was critically burned when he and two others mistakenly jumped into a thermal pool at Yellowstone National Park.

The suit by Lance Buchi was to have gone to trial in two weeks.

Buchi of Holladay, Utah, and Tyler Montague, Salt Lake City, both 18 at the time, suffered near-fatal burns to more than 90 percent of their bodies when they and Sara Hulphers, 20, Oroville, Wash., inadvertently jumped into the 178-degree pool on Aug. 21, 2000. Hulphers died from her injuries.

The three, who were working for a park concessionaire, had taken a late-night walk near the Firehole River. The suit said they attempted to jump what they thought was a "thin ribbon of water," but which actually was a small band of vegetation growing beside Cavern Springs. They landed in the pool.

Buchi sued the park service and the Interior Department, claiming the government failed to properly warn them of the dangers posed by the high-temperature pools.

Buchi's attorney, Steven Choquette, confirmed Thursday that the suit has been dismissed, but declined to discuss the ruling, saying U.S. District Judge William Downes has not yet issued a written ruling on the motion. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Vassallo also declined to discuss the ruling.

Attorneys learned of Downes' decision during a Wednesday telephone conference, which was originally planned to finalize details for the upcoming jury trial.

The government had argued in court filings that "Any injuries incurred by (Buchi) were caused by his own negligent acts and omissions, including unlawfully walking in a thermal area off any boardwalk or trail."

Buchi and Montague spent three months at University of Utah Health Science Center's Intermountain Burn Unit. The suit said Buchi's medical expenses exceed $1 million and are expected to increase steadily throughout his life.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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