Fatal Fall into a Volcanic Fumarole
ABSTRACT 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.
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ABSTRACT: CO2 emissions and shallow seismicity are correlated at Mammoth Mtn. and vary on decadal timescales•Increased CO2 emissions from Mammoth Mtn. lag periods of increased shallow seismicity by 2-3 years•Long-term regional measurements show a mountain-wide response to increased degassing•Total CO2 from diffuse degassing is estimated to be ~ 2-3 Mt for 1995-2013, and ~ 4.8 Mt back to 1989Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 11/2014; 289. DOI:10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2014.10.020 · 2.52 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: A 29-year-old man was found dead lying on the bed in a hotel room in a famous Slovak mountain resort. He had a full-face diving mask on his face, connected through a diving breath regulator to a valve of an industrial (nondiving) high-pressure tank containing pure 100% nitrogen. The breath regulator (open-circuit type) used allowed inhalation of nitrogen without addition of open air, and the full-face diving mask assured aspiration of the gas even during the time of unconsciousness. At autopsy, we found the typical signs of suffocation. Toxicological analysis revealed 94.7% content of nitrogen in alveolar air. Following the completion of the police investigation, the manner of death was classified as a suicide. Within the medico-legal literature, there has been only one similar case of suicidal nitrogen inhalation described (1).Journal of Forensic Sciences 07/2013; 58(5). DOI:10.1111/1556-4029.12239 · 1.31 Impact Factor