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Contact: Abby Wines (NPS), 760-786-3221
Contact: Darcy Ellis (Inyo County)
UPDATE: The Inyo County Coroner has identified the man who died at the Golden Canyon trailhead in Death Valley National Park on Tuesday afternoon as 71-year-old Steve Curry of the Sunland neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Curry collapsed shortly after 3:30 p.m. outside the restroom at Golden Canyon amid temperatures that had soared to 121°F. Hours earlier, Curry had been interviewed at Zabriskie Point by a reporter with the Los Angeles Times. He was photographed slathered in sunscreen, huddled beneath a metal interpretive sign that afforded a small amount of shade. According to the article, he had hiked there from Golden Canyon – a distance of about two miles. At some point, Curry left the popular tourist destination and hiked back to the Golden Canyon trailhead, where he had left his car.
The 71-year-old man from the Los Angeles area collapsed outside the restroom at Golden Canyon. National Park Service officials believe he had likely just been hiking the popular trail. He was wearing a sun hat and hiking clothes, and carried a backpack. His car was in the parking lot.
Other park visitors noticed the man and were able to use their cell phone to call 911 for assistance at 3:40 pm. National Park Service and Inyo County Sheriff’s Office responded. Mercy Air’s helicopter was not able to respond due to the high temperature. Park rangers arrived at 3:47. They did CPR and used an automated external defibrillator (AED) but were not able to save the man.
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.
Park rangers encourage people to visit Death Valley safely in the summer by sightseeing short distances from their air-conditioned cars or hiking in the park’s cooler mountains. They do not recommend hiking at low elevations after 10:00 am.
This is possibly the second heat-related fatality in Death Valley this summer. A 65-year-old man died on July 3.
According to the National Weather Service, Death Valley has experienced 28 days of temperatures in excess of 110 degrees this year. Heat stroke sets in when the body’s core temperature rises above 104 degrees. Classic signs of heat stroke 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; behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation, or staggering; seizures; and unconsciousness. Seek immediate medical help if heat stroke is suspected.
Last updated: July 20, 2023