Dumb prank at boiling Yellowstone geyser lands motivational speaker in court

Old Failthful geyser eruption at Yellowstone National Park
(Image credit: Getty)

An Influencer has appeared in court following a stunt where he filmed himself appearing to emerge after a swim in one of Yellowstone's hot springs. In a video shared on TikTok, Matt Manzari was seen strolling near Old Faithful with his shirt in his hands, suggesting he had just been swimming in the geyser's 224F waters.

Manzari, from Florida, was left heavily scarred after an accident in 2014, when he was electrocuted while trimming a hedge outside a church. After recovering, he used the near-death experience as the foundation for a career as a motivational speaker and influencer.

In his video (which has since been taken down), he walked up to the camera, crossing the fragile ground around the geyser, and said "Geewiz, do I have a rash?"

He told news site Cowboy State Daily that his video was intended to poke fun at himself and encourage people not to be ashamed of their bodies. “The point of the video was clearly to point out my scars and to clearly raise burn awareness, to clearly poke fun," he said. “It’s OK to have a sense of humor about yourself and it’s OK to be open about what you’re going through."

Matt Manzari walking by Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park

(Image credit: Matt Manzari via Cowboy State Daily)

Manzari said that he saw the signs, but believed they were only cautionary. “My statement is absolute remorse and apologies for everything,” he added. “Regardless of the backlash, like if I knew that it could be damaging to the ecosystem and if I knew it could be damaging to the park, I wouldn’t have done it. I was 100% not trying to be disrespectful.”

He  turned himself in to authorities, and was cited for a violation of federal law. He appeared in court via video link earlier this week. The results of the trial have not yet been published, but if found guilty, he could face jail time and a hefty fine.

In 2020, two men were sentenced to 10 days in jail, fined $540, and banned from Yellowstone for five years for trespassing on the cone of Old Faithful.

"Visitors must realize that walking on thermal features is dangerous, damages the resource, and illegal," said Chief Ranger Sarah Davis. "Law enforcement officers take this violation seriously."

Safety first

Yellowstone's thermal features are some of its most striking attractions, but also some of its most dangerous. The National Park Service has installed boardwalks to keep guests at a safe distance, and off ground that may collapse into searing hot groundwater, but some visitors choose to ignore the warnings.

In 2016, a park visitor was killed after accidentally falling into the scalding Norris Geyser basin while looking for a warm pool to bathe in. As the Guardian reported at the time, poor weather hampered rescue efforts, and by the time responders were able to reach him, all that remained in the hot, acidic water was a pair of melted flip-flops.

Despite accidents like this, people are still seen straying close to geysers and springs, and even washing their dogs in the thermal waters. Just a few weeks ago, a park employee discovered a human foot floating in the Abyss Pool, which officials believe was connected to a death at the park in July.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.