• Sierra del Carmen

    Big Bend

    National Park Texas

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June Fatality in Big Bend National Park

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Date: June 21, 2011
Contact: David Elkowitz, 432-477-1108

On Wednesday morning, June 15, 2011, a Big Bend National Park employee was flagged down by three illegal immigrants asking for help at the Tornillo Creek bridge near Rio Grande Village. They had been lost in the desert since Sunday and had run out of water the previous day. They indicated that there were a total of seven individuals in their group and they had become separated as they grew weaker from the heat. Temperatures in this part of the park had reached 115 for the last several days.

Rangers and Border Patrol agents responded to provide care and search for the missing members of the group. A joint agency incident command was established as officers searched on foot, by truck and on horseback, and with aviation resources. Within three hours, two additional men were located. One of those was transported to the Big Bend Regional Medical Center in Alpine, TX. Rangers and Border Patrol agents continued the search for the remaining two individuals for the remainder of the day. A State of Texas DPS helicopter joined the search later that evening but without success.

The search resumed on Thursday, June 16, 2011, at 6:00 a.m. Using information obtained from interviewing the found men, the search was focused on a certain area where one of the group was found deceased. He had succumbed to severe dehydration and heat exposure. His remains were transferred to the coroner and then the Alpine Funeral Home. The Mexican Consulate was notified so they could assist with next-of-kin notification.

Further investigation revealed that the remaining missing person was their paid guide or “Coyote” who had abandoned the group early on and had made his way back across the border into Mexico.

The summer months with high temperatures and the rough terrain of the park can combine to make the lower desert a very difficult environment for the unprepared, for those without adequate water and supplies, or for those trying to traverse the park illegally.

Big Bend National Park is saddened by the loss of life that occurred.The park wishes to thank the U.S. Border Patrol, as well as the DPS Aviation Unit, for their assistance with this incident.

Did You Know?

Persimmon Gap, viewed from the south

In 1935, Conrad Wirth, later the director of the National Park Service, said this of Persimmon Gap in Big Bend National Park, “There will probably always be a road from Marathon through . . . Persimmon Gap, which is a very fine and natural gateway to the Park.”