Fatal Fall into a Volcanic Fumarole

University of California, San Diego, San Diego, California, United States
Wilderness and Environmental Medicine (Impact Factor: 1.2). 02/2009; 20(1):77-9. DOI: 10.1580/08-WEME-CR-199.1
Source: PubMed


Fatalities secondary to inhalation of volcanic gases in the United States have rarely been reported. We report the deaths of 3 ski patrol members at a popular California ski resort. After a snowstorm, ski patrol members were fencing off a well-known volcanic fumarole when the snow around the vent collapsed. Two members slid into the deep hole and rapidly lost consciousness. A third member carrying oxygen descended into the hole and also lost consciousness. A fourth member affixed an oxygen mask, but still lost consciousness upon descent. The 3 initial victims expired at the scene, while the fourth victim survived. Autopsy results for all 3 were consistent with a suffocation/asphyxiation death. In the case described, the involved fumarole is a well-known source of toxic gases. Atmospheric sampling data dating back decades demonstrate that carbon dioxide levels typically range from 97% to 99%, nitrogen gas from 1% to 3%, and hydrogen sulfide from .004% to .07%. Other gases in smaller concentrations include oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon monoxide. Given the rapidity with which our victims lost consciousness and the historical data available on the Mammoth Mountain Fumarole (MMF), it is plausible that our patients suffered from acute asphyxiation, although the contribution of the directly toxic effects of the gases involved cannot be ruled out. During winter months, snow can build up and disguise volcanic vents and potentially trap toxic fumes to form dangerous, gas-filled pits. Recognition of such potential hazards is essential when working in or venturing into volcanically active areas during the winter.

6 Reads
  • Source
    • "Low to moderate CO2 concentrations (i.e., > 2% by volume) in breathing air indeed cause respiration problems, acidosis in blood and feeling of heaviness in the chest, sweating, tachycardia, mental depression and tremors. As the CO2 concentration climbs above 10%, coupled with the decrease in O2, unconsciousness and death can quickly be induced (e.g., Beaubien et alii 2003, Cantrell and Young 2009, Heggie 2009). In order to assess the mechanisms that originate the gas exhalations and to minimize the CO2 hazard for human beings, cattle and pets, from 2005 in the n-e sector of Mt. "

  • Source
    • "In addition, close attention should be paid to any changes in the activity of geothermal features, including changes in flow rate, water level, or outgassing, that could indicate an imminent " eruption " or discharge. Care should also be taken to avoid asphyxiation when working near hot springs, particularly in hot springs or fumaroles in depressions and on calm days when dense gasses (e.g., CO 2 ) can accumulate (Cantrell and Young, 2009; Whittlesey, 1995). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Research on the nitrogen biogeochemical cycle in terrestrial geothermal ecosystems has recently been energized by the discovery of thermophilic ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA). This chapter describes methods that have been used for measuring nitrification and denitrification in hot spring environments, including isotope pool dilution and tracer approaches, and the acetylene block approach. The chapter also summarizes qualitative and quantitative methods for measurement of functional and phylogenetic biomarkers of thermophiles potentially involved in these processes.
    Methods in enzymology 01/2011; 486:171-203. DOI:10.1016/B978-0-12-381294-0.00008-0 · 2.09 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Silicon (Si) has not been proven to be an essential element for higher plants, but its beneficial effects on growth have been reported in a wide variety of crops, including rice, wheat, barley, and cucumber. Si fertilizer is applied to crops in several countries for increased productivity and sustainable production. Plants take up Si in the form of silicic acid, which is transported to the shoot, and after loss of water, it is polymerized as silica gel on the surface of leaves and stems. Evidence is lacking concerning the physiological role of Si in plant metabolism. Since the beneficial effects of this element are apt to be observed in plants which accumulate Si, the silica gel deposited on the plant surface is thought to contribute to the beneficial effects of Si, which may be small under optimized growth conditions, but become obvious under stress conditions. In this review, the effects of Si under biotic stresses (disease and insect damage) and abiotic stresses including climate stresses (typhoon and cool summer damage), water deficiency stress, and mineral stresses (deficiency of P and excess of P, Na, Mn, N and Al) are discussed.
    Studies in Plant Science 01/2001; Vol. 8. DOI:10.1016/S0928-3420(01)80006-9
Show more

Similar Publications