Three People Have Died in Accidents at National Parks Amid the Government Shutdown
Three people have died in accidents at national parks since the start of the government shutdown last month. President Donald Trump kept parks, which were closed during previous shutdowns, open during the current one.
Jeremy Barnum, a spokesperson with the National Parks Service told the Washington Post that a total of seven people have died since the shutdown, and officials believe four of them were suicides. He added that, on average, six people die each week in parks across the country.
However, the lack of emergency and safety crews—including park rangers—available on site has affected safety operations.
One of the reported deaths included a man who died at Yosemite National Park from injuries to the head. Victor Mendez, who visited the park from Texas with his wife and a friend, said they found the injured man and a dog, and called 911. Both the man and the dog were bleeding. Mendez said moving the man from the area was difficult because first responders didn’t have a stretcher.
According to a National Parks Service official who spoke to the Washington Post anonymously, park rangers on duty often will stop hikers from bringing their dogs on trails because of various risk factors. But there are only an estimated half a dozen rangers who are able to continue patrolling all of Yosemite at this time.
Andrew Munoz, a National Park Service spokesperson told the Associated Press that the investigation into the man’s death was taking longer than usual due to the government shutdown.
The National Park Service warned visitors that staff would not be available in case of emergency. “Any entry onto NPS property during this period of federal government shutdown is at the visitor’s sole risk,” the service said.
A 14-year-old girl also died after falling 700 feet down a canyon at Glen Canyon National Park in Arizona on Christmas Eve. The Arizona Department of Public Safety was not able to retrieve her body until the following day. A third person died last week, after a tree fell on her and her 6-year-old son in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, according to the Associated Press. Her son broke his leg.
Last week, some national parks reported public health and safety concerns, like overflowing toilets, and trash and human waste piling up due to severe understaffing.
Fortune has reached out to the National Park Service for additional comment on these deaths and how the government shutdown is impacting safety and emergency procedures at the parks.