A man has died from extreme heat at Death Valley National Park this week, according to a statement released by the National Park Service. Park visitors found the body of David Kelleher, 67, on June 14, 2022 in the park; Kelleher appears to have been walking from Zabriskie Point toward Furnace Creek after running out of gas.
On the morning of June 8, a park ranger noticed that there was only one vehicle in Zabriskie Point parking lot. On the evening of June 11, the same park ranger saw only one vehicle in the parking lot and remembered it from three days earlier. A heat wave caused record temperatures, up to 123°F. That vehicle was registered to Kelleher of Huntington Beach, California
Seeing the vehicle still in the same spot, at one of the park’s most popular viewpoints, Park Rangers initiated an investigation and learned that Kelleher had not been reported missing. A records search also showed that a Park Ranger had cited Kelleher for off-road driving on May 30. A crumpled note inside Kelleher’s vehicle said, “Out of gas”. Kelleher had also mentioned being low on gas when contacted by a park ranger May 30 near Dantes View Road.
Due to extreme heat, the ground and aerial search for the man was limited. The search focused on the nearby Golden Canyon and Badlands Trails and not where his body was later found. Park visitors came across his body at about 2pm on June 14th; the body was roughly 2.5 miles away from the vehicle, but only about 30 feet from California Highway 190. The highway there is obscured by terrain and a mesquite tree.
Park rangers say in extreme heat, people should wait at a broken vehicle, rather than attempting to walk for assistance. In addition, the National Park Service encourages park visitors to stay safe in the summer by not hiking at low elevations after 10 am, staying within a short walk of air conditioning, drinking plenty of water, and eating salty snacks.
Sadly, this is not the only recent fatality at the park. On June 1, John McCarry,69, of Long Beach, California, was found deceased in Panamint Valley.
Another man is also missing. A search started on May 23 for Peter Harootunian, whose vehicle was noticed by National Park Service staff abandoned in Emigrant Campground. Harootunian has not been found, and the search has been scaled back to limited and continuous.