A senior citizen died in Death Valley after his car ran out of gas in Death Valley National Park during record high temperatures. A park visitor found his body on Tuesday.
67-year-old David W. Kelleher apparently started walking in extreme heat after his car ran out of gas. The National Park Service says he appears to have been walking from Zabriskie Point toward Furnace Creek after abandoning his car.
Rangers say he had entered the park several days earlier. A ranger noticed a car in Zabriskie Point parking log on June 8 and noticed the same car there three days later.
A heat wave caused record temperatures, up to 123 degrees.
After discovering that the vehicle was registered to Kelleher and learned that there was no missing person report on him. A records search also showed that a park ranger had cited Kelleher for off-road driving on May 30.
The ground and aerial search was limited by hot weather. The search focused on the Golden Canyon and Badlands Trails.
The park service says 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.
Kelleher’s body was found around 2 p.m. on June 14. Kelleher was about 2.5 miles from his vehicle, but only about 30 feet from California Highway 190, obscured by terrain and a mesquite tree.
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.
This is the park’s second recent fatality. The body of John McCarry, 69, of Long Beach, was found in Panamint Valley on June 1.
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.
Park rangers say in extreme heat, people should wait at a broken vehicle, rather than attempting to walk for assistance. Kelleher’s vehicle was parked at one of the park’s most popular viewpoints.