Yosemite National Park Death Went Unreported For a Week During Government Shutdown
The government shutdown has left national parks understaffed as skeleton crews work to keep visitors and natural heritage safe.
Yosemite National Park. Image: Wikimedia Commons
America’s national parks have (once again) become a hypervisible example of the chaos created by a government shutdown. In addition to the ongoing poop, trash, and vandalism crises, multiple people have died in national parks since the shutdown began—one death going unannounced for a week.
According to Outside Magazine, a man at Yosemite National Park sustained fatal head injuries on Christmas Day after slipping at Silver Apron, a sloping granite feature located near a popular waterfall, A 911 call was made, and rangers arrived in less than an hour to move the man.
“Medical attention was provided to the visitor, but he died from his injuries. The visitor was not in a closed area,” Andrew Muñoz, supervisory public affairs officer for the National Park Service, told Outside Online last week.
When the man’s death had still not been announced by national park authorities more than a week later, Muñoz told Outside Online the shutdown was to blame. “The incident remains under investigation, which is taking longer than usual because of the shutdown,” Muñoz added.
Many national parks are staying open on donated time and money, while rangers, maintenance crews, and other staff work without pay. At Yosemite National Park, whose 1,169 square miles equal the size of Rhode Island, six rangers are on duty—tasked with keeping visitors safe.
The National Park Services estimates that 16,000 of its 19,000 workers have been furloughed.
On December 24, a 14-year-old girl was found 700 feet below Horseshoe Bend, an iconic vista in Arizona’s Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Rescuers with the Arizona Department of Public Safety weren’t able to retrieve her body until the next day, according to NBC News.
The girl’s death appeared to have been caused by an accidental fall, but is being investigated by the Coconino County Medical Examiner's Office, AZ Central reported.
And on December 29 in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a woman was killed when strong winds caused a tree to fall on her. Laila Jiwani, 42, was hiking with her husband and three children on Porter Creek Trail, ABC reported.
One child was also injured when the tree “fell from the sky,” Jiwani’s husband told ABC.
Seven people have died in national parks since the shutdown began, National Park Service spokesman Jeremy Barnum told the Washington Post. Four were believed to be suicides.
President Trump’s shutdown is now now the third longest in US history, clocking in at 16 days as of Monday.
Damages to national parks incurred from the shutdown are expected to cause long-lasting, even permanent, damage, according to National Geographic.
The decision to keep national parks open, unlike during the 2013 shutdown, was criticized by former National Park Service director Jonathan Jarvis, who called it a “tragic” mistake.