Paden McCormick was hiking with his wife Katie and their three dogs through the Salmon-Challis national forest in Idaho when tragedy struck. According to an Aug. 25 report from Local News 8 the McCormicks were walking along Panther Creek Hot Springs when they came upon an unexpectedly warm spring that claimed the lives of both of their labradors, Dexter and Dahlia, and left Paden in a Seattle hospital with severe burns.
According to Katie’s mother Christine Brown, the couple and their dogs were approaching a hot spring Aug. 20, when one of the dogs leapt into the water before its owners could check the temperature. The animal began to yelp and, recognizing that his friend was in pain, the second canine jumped in. The second dog reportedly went under the water and never resurfaced. Seeing the animals in crisis, Paden went into the scalding water to save his pets. He was able to retrieve the first dog before being pulled from the spring by his wife.
The Olympian reports that Paden suffered second-degree and third-degree burns over more than half of his body. According to Paden’s brother, Alden, the couple began moving back down the trail toward their vehicle in order to seek medical attention, with Katie was assisting her injured husband and their badly burned pet. By chance, they crossed paths with a group of firefighters. The Centennial Type II Initial Attack crew from the Island Park Ranger District was returning from fighting the Elkhorn Fire when they found Paden and his dog in dire need of assistance. The firefighters were able to dress Paden’s wounds and stabilize him for transport to a hospital, before contacting an air ambulance and clearing a space for the helicopter to land.
Paden was initially transported to a hospital in Missoula, Montana, where doctors examined the extent of his burns and decided that he should be transferred to a hospital in Seattle. Paden is expected to recover from his injuries but will likely spend months in the hospital before being released. The dog that Paden was able to rescue from the hot spring was taken to Blue Cross Veterinary Clinic in Salmon, Idaho, where it succumbed to severe burns.
Some believe the springs may have reached unusually high temperatures, up to 180 degrees, due in part to drought conditions. Boise State Public Radio spoke with Boise State University geoscience professor C.J. Northrup who said the heating could have occurred gradually as cool water from the surface dried up, or could also have been the result of seismic activity.
“If you look at temperature changes in hot springs throughout the year it’s not uncommon to see them be a little cooler in the wetter parts of the year, and then become a bit warmer during the drier parts of the year,” Northrup said. The professor used the analogy of plumbing to explain how small earthquakes may have led to changes in the flow of underground water. “We’ve probably all been in the shower and had something happen to the plumbing right?” Northrup said. “Somebody turns on the tap or flushes the toilet, and suddenly the pressure changes and the temperature coming out of the shower changes pretty dramatically.”
The incident prompted forest officials to issue a press release regarding the danger involved with the increased temperatures at Panther creek, in an attempt to avoid any additional injuries. A donation fund has been set up at YouCaring.com to help with Paden’s medical expenses, as he undergoes multiple surguries along his path to recovery.