KEY POINTS

  • An 18-year-old woman was killed Sunday after a diving accident at Glacier National Park
  • Another man in her group was flown to a hospital to receive treatment for decompression sickness
  • Drownings are the leading cause of death at Glacier National Park, where rangers warn calm waters can turn to a “boat-eating cauldron” without warning

Scuba diving in national parks is surprisingly popular even in land-locked locations, but the recent death of a teenager diving in Glacier National Park raises questions about the safety of the hobby.

An 18-year-old woman was with a group of other divers Sunday in Montana when disaster struck, leaving her dead on the scene and another man, 22, flown to a Seattle hospital for decompression sickness treatment.

The exact nature of what happened at Lake McDonald is not yet publicly known, and the names of those involved have not been made public. The National Parks Service is investigating the matter, NBC reports.

Glacier National Park is home to lakes more than 500 feet deep, an attraction for divers looking to find artifacts or the wreck of a sunken steamer. The water can be very cold, but both depth and chill are common obstacles at other diving locations.

Even if Glacier National Park diving isn’t any more dangerous than ocean diving, as an activity in general, diving and swimming are among the more dangerous. Drowning is the chief cause of death at Glacier while drowning and falls constitute the leading causes of death at parks nationwide. 

The water can be treacherous near the surface, with the parks service warning divers, “The placid lake waters plied by canoes can turn into a boat-eating cauldron very quickly.” 

Still, the dangers of diving have deterred neither divers eager to experience the parks from a deeper perspective nor the parks service from advertising its various diving attractions. Guides to both lake and ocean diving can be found on its website.

“Perhaps the best-kept secret of our National Parks is the underwater realm that they include: millions of acres of submerged lands, only a fraction of which have been explored by divers. Explore the underwater world,” it reads.

The names of the deceased woman and injured man have not been released. 

Glacier National Park Nick Wieland of Eagan, Minnesota hikes the Highline Trail with a view of Heaven’s Peak in Glacier National Park, Montana. Photo: Reuters

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