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Dutch tourist fined for crashing drone in Yellowstone hot spring

(Reuters) - A Dutch tourist has been ordered to pay penalites of more than $3,000 for crashing a drone aircraft into a famous hot spring at Yellowstone National Park, a park spokesman said on Thursday.

Theodorus Van Vliet was trying to take aerial pictures of Yellowstone last month when his camera-equipped drone crashed into Grand Prismatic Spring, a geothermal feature known for its brilliant colors caused by bacteria and minerals, officials said.

Rangers were unable to find the wreckage but suspect it is lying on the floor of the hot spring, the park’s largest at 370 feet in diameter and more than 121 feet deep, Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash said in a statement.

Van Vliet on Tuesday pleaded guilty to violating a ban on unmanned aerial vehicles on lands and waters overseen by the National Park Service and was ordered to pay a fine of $1,000 and $2,200 in restitution, said Nash.

It was the second of three recent prosecutions of visitors accused of violating the prohibition on drones in a scenic park that spans parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. The cases come as premier parks in the U.S. West have reported a sharp rise in the number of such aircraft buzzing wildlife and people.

Andreas Meissner, from Germany, earlier this month was banned from the park for one year and sentenced to a year of unsupervised probation after pleading guilty to crashing a drone into Yellowstone Lake in July, Nash said.

A third man, Donald Criswell of Molalla, Oregon, is charged with violating the ban last month by flying a drone over a geyser basin and near bison in a case to be heard in a federal court in Wyoming next month, said Nash.

Reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Salmon, Idaho; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Simon Cameron-Moore