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Tourist reportedly crashes drone into Yellowstone National Park's largest hot spring

By Kate Grise and Dave Alsup, CNN
updated 11:37 AM EDT, Thu August 7, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Tourist said to have crashed drone into Grand Prismatic Spring
  • Park officials not sure if drone damaged the spring or if it needs to be recovered
  • National Park Service banned drones in its parks in June

(CNN) -- Authorities at Yellowstone National Park are investigating reports that a tourist crashed a drone into the Grand Prismatic Spring, the park's largest hot spring, on Saturday.

The tourist approached a park employee about getting the drone back after losing it in the almost 200-feet deep hot spring. The employee let the tourist go without initially reporting the incident to authorities.

"I don't think the person who they spoke with realized that drones couldn't be flown in the park or the implications of what they were being told," Amy Bartlett, spokesperson for Yellowstone National Park, told CNN.

Drones are banned in national parks. The National Park Service announced in June that it was prohibiting unmanned aircraft from all park service-controlled lands and waters, totaling about 84 million acres throughout the country.

Park rangers have not yet spoken to the drone's operator and are still trying to determine if they can even track that person down.

"The technology certainly has been around for a while, but this is the year that the problem has seemed to come to light for us," Bartlett said.

Park rangers have not determined if the drone damaged the spring and if it's necessary to recover it.

This is the latest in a string of recent drone incidents in national parks and beyond.

Visitors watching the sunset over the Grand Canyon were interrupted by a loud drone in April. And volunteers reported that a herd of bighorn sheep at Zion National Park in Utah scattered after being harassed by a drone.

Also, a Seattle woman called police in June to report a peeping Tom drone. The drone was hovering outside of her high-rise window, and the woman saw operators on the ground below with camera equipment.

The drone operators insist that they were not spying on the woman, but rather her view. They were working on plans for a new building.

Police said as long as the drone was flying in a public space, there was little that they could do.

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