Man dies in Death Valley after temperatures reach 49°C

California national park has experienced 28 days of temperatures above 43°C this year

A warning sign in Death Valley, California. Reuters
Powered by automated translation

A 71-year-old man from Los Angeles died in Death Valley, California, after temperatures in one of the hottest places on earth soared to 49.4°C.

The National Park Service (NPS) said Steve Curry, a resident of the Sunland neighbourhood of Los Angeles, collapsed about 3.30pm local time outside a bathroom near the Golden Canyon hiking trail. Officials said he had probably been hiking the trail and was wearing a sun hat and hiking clothes and carrying a backpack.

A cause of death has not yet been confirmed.

“However, park rangers suspect heat was a factor,” the NPS said in a news release.

Other visitors called emergency services shortly after seeing the man at 3.40pm. A helicopter was not able to respond because of high temperatures. Park rangers arrived at 3.47pm but were not able to save him.

Hours before his death, Mr Curry was interviewed by a news reporter.

Mr Curry had hiked from Golden Canyon to Zabriskie Point, a distance of approximately 3.2km. He was photographed wearing sunscreen and beneath a metal sign that park officials said “afforded a small amount of shade”. He was believed to have hiked back to the Golden Canyon trailhead some time later.

Park officials said the official temperature was 49.4°C at Death Valley's Furnace Creek near the time of his death, although the temperature at the Golden Canyon trail was likely to have been higher because of canyon walls exacerbating the hot conditions.

Officials do not recommend that people hike at low elevations after 10am local time.

Death Valley has recorded 28 days of temperatures exceeding 43°C this year, the National Weather Service said. Overnight lows typically dip into the mid-30s°C during the summer.

The hottest temperature yet recorded at Death Valley was 57ºC in 1913.

Updated: July 21, 2023, 12:03 PM