Yellowstone Officials Now Know Who The Foot Found Abyss Pool Belonged To

On August 16, 2022, as CNN reported at the time, an employee at Yellowstone National Park found a human foot, in a shoe, at the Abyss Pool (one of the multiple natural hot springs in the park). This was alarming for several reasons, not the least of which is that human feet can generally be counted on to be attached to human bodies — that one was found by itself indicates that something unexpected, and likely horrible, had happened. Since the detached body part was found near a hot spring, and in a park known for its preponderance of hot springs, the likelihood that the dangerously-hot water — up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit at that particular spring — played a role in the foot separating from its body. 

But what role? Was the owner of the foot a victim of violence, his or her body thrown into the hot spring? Or was he or she alive when they entered the boiling-hot waters, and if so, was it an accident? Or perhaps it was a suicide, or were they shoved in? And most importantly, who did the foot belong to? Answering that last question could be key to answering the rest.

On November 17, as the National Park Service reported, authorities answered at least one of those questions, although many more remain unanswered. Authorities have identified the foot as belonging to an elderly Los Angeles man, and he is not believed to have died as the result of violence.

The victim: Il Hun Ro

Thanks to DNA technology, it's possible to identify a body, or even a very small part of a body, if conditions are right. Fortunately, in this particular case, authorities were able to conduct DNA analysis on the human foot found in the Abyss Pool, and they've identified its owner. Specifically, as HuffPost reports, the victim has been identified as Il Hun Ro, a 70-year-old Los Angeles man. His family has been notified.

That is the beginning and the end of what is known for certain about the human foot found in the pool and its owner. The rest, including how he wound up in the pool, is just speculation. Nevertheless, officials have, for now anyway, concluded that there was no foul play and that Ro's death was likely an accident. Authorities believe that on the morning of July 31, according to CBS News, Ro was by himself when he accidentally slipped and/or fell into the spring — an "unwitnessed accident," as officials are calling it. "Based on a lack of evidence, the circumstances surrounding the death of Ro remain unknown," the National Park Service said in a press release.

Yellowstone's deadly hot springs

For all of its stunning natural beauty, and for its role in the geological history in the landmass that is now the United States, Yellowstone is also quite possibly the most dangerous national park in this country. In addition to deadly wildlife and unpredictable and extreme weather (in particular in the winter), there's also the fact that Yellowstone's biggest draw — its hot springs — are so hot they're deadly. The Abyss Pool, for example, can reach temperatures of up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit — and other springs in the park can get even hotter. Those temperatures can cause third-degree burns, and anyone unfortunate enough to fall into the water is almost certain to die a horrible death.

In fact, this is not the first person to die in a hot spring in Yellowstone. In 2000, according to CNN, a person slipped and fell into a hot spring and died; similarly, in 2016, a tourist left the designated path and wound up in a hot spring, and died for his decision.

As such, staying on designated paths is paramount for safety within the park, according to CBS News. "Boiling water surges just under the thin crust of most geyser basins, and many people have been severely burned when they have broken through the fragile surface," the park noted.