February 21, 2024

A man was found dead in Death Valley where the temperature rose to 121 degrees

A 71-year-old man died at the Golden Valley trailhead i Death Valley National Park Tuesday could mark the second heat-related death in two weeks at the California site.

The man, identified as Steve Curry from Los Angeles, is believed to have just made the trip, according to a release from the National Park Service. Other park patrons found him unresponsive, at which point they contacted Inyo County police and the National Park Service for assistance.

The Park Service said a helicopter was unable to respond due to the high temperature. When park rangers arrived, they performed CPR and used a defibrillator, but were unable to save Curry.

“The Inyo County Coroner’s Office has not yet determined the man’s cause of death. However, park rangers suspect the heat was a factor. The official temperature at nearby Furnace Creek was 121 °F around the time of his death. Actual temperatures inside Golden Canyon were likely much higher, due to canyon walls radiating the sun’s heat,” the NPS said in the release.

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The death may be the third due to hot weather at a national park this month, with a 65-year-old man dying at Death Valley and a 57-year-old woman dying at Grand Canyon National Park, both on July 3. The woman reportedly hiked eight miles through the secluded Tuweep section of the Grand Canyon trail before she fell. According to the NPS, the Grand Canyon can reach up to 120 degrees during advisory heat.

The man was found earlier this month near Death Valley in his vehicle, which officials believe had no functioning air conditioning, after he drove off the shoulder of the road and into a nearby embankment. It was not clear what time he lost consciousness, but officials said the temperature the day before was 126 degrees and the overnight low was 98 degrees. The temperatures on July 3 and July 18 exceeded 110 degrees in their respective places.

The deaths come amid the worst heat wave on record that has hit parts of the United States in recent weeks. The National Park Service advises potential patrons to be aware of the times they hike and encourages visitors to avoid low-elevation trails between 10 am and 4 pm on days when heat advisories are in effect, and to do their viewing from an air-conditioned car.

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Hikers should “travel ready to live,” wearing a wide-brimmed hat and loose, light clothing in light colors that cover the skin. Bring backpacks supplied with plenty of water and food, including electrolytes. Self-monitor for heat stroke symptoms, including “throbbing headache; dizziness and lightheadedness; lack of sweating despite the heat; red, hot and dry skin; muscle weakness or cramps; nausea and vomiting; fast heartbeat (strong or weak); rapid, shallow breathing; behavioral changes such as confusion, restlessness, or stumbling; seizures; and unconscious,” according to the NPS. When they are indoors or in vehicles, they should make sure they spend time in air-conditioned areas.

You can view National Park Service alerts, closures and advisories at the NPS website or on each park’s individual website.

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