Hiker found dead in Death Valley as temperatures soar to 49 degrees Celsius

A sign warns of extreme heat as tourists enter Death Valley National Park in California. Picture: Reuters/Steve Marcus/File Photo

A sign warns of extreme heat as tourists enter Death Valley National Park in California. Picture: Reuters/Steve Marcus/File Photo

Published Jul 21, 2023


By Zoe Glasser

A 71-year-old man died at the Golden Valley trailhead in Death Valley National Park on Tuesday, potentially marking the second heat-related fatality in two weeks at the California site.

The man, identified as Steve Curry of Los Angeles, was believed to have just completed hiking the trail, 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 because of the high temperature. When park rangers arrived, they did CPR and used a defibrillator, but were not able to save Curry.

"The Inyo County Coroner's Office has not yet determined the man's cause of death. However, park rangers suspect 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.

This death may be the third caused by 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 (about 12km) through the secluded Tuweep portion of the Grand Canyon trail before collapsing.

According to the NPS, the Grand Canyon can reach up to 120 degrees (about 48 degree Celsius) during heat advisories.

The man was found earlier this month near Death Valley in his vehicle, which officials believe had no functioning air conditioning, after it had driven off the shoulder of the road and into a nearby embankment.

It was not clear what time he had lost consciousness, but officials say the temperature the day prior was 126 degrees and the low temperature overnight was 98 degrees.

The temperatures on both July 3 and July 18 surpassed 110 degrees in their respective locations.

These deaths come in the midst of a record-breaking heat wave that has battered parts of the United States for weeks.

The National Park Service advises potential patrons to be conscious of the times at which they hike and encourages hikers to avoid low-elevation trails between 10am and 4pm on days when heat advisories are in place, and to do their sightseeing from an air-conditioned car.

Hikers should "travel prepared to survive," wearing a wide-brimmed hat and loose, lightweight and light-coloured clothes that cover the skin. Bring backpacks supplied with plenty of water and food, including electrolytes.

Self-monitor for symptoms of heat stroke, which include "throbbing headache; dizziness and light-headedness; lack of sweating despite the heat; red, hot, and dry skin; muscle weakness or cramps; nausea and vomiting; rapid heartbeat (either strong or weak); rapid, shallow breathing; behavioural changes such as confusion, disorientation, or staggering; seizures; and unconsciousness," according to the NPS.

Once indoors or in vehicles, they should make sure to spend time in air-conditioned locations.