A hiker from Washington state was found dead in Death Valley National Park in California, an area known for having some of the world’s highest recorded temperatures, park authorities said Thursday.
Douglas Branham, 68, was found dead around two miles from the closest road in Death Valley National Park, according to a joint statement from the park and the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office. Family members said he had planned a 12-mile round trip hike through the salt flats located in the California park.
Family members called his hotel Wednesday morning after Branham missed his Tuesday flight home to Tukwila, Washington, the statement said. The hotel discovered his belongings were still in his room and National Park Service rangers found his vehicle at a nearby parking lot.
Branham’s body was discovered by a California Highway Patrol helicopter crew Wednesday afternoon. The helicopter had to land and unload equipment before returning with a park ranger to recover the body, the statement continued. Temperatures in Death Valley at the time, and during much of the week, reached triple-digits.
“Helicopter rotors struggle to create enough lift in hot air, and temperatures were about 115 degrees Fahrenheit at the time,” authorities said.
Authorities also noted that Branham began his hike either Sunday or Monday when temperatures in the area reached up to 118 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity as high as 91%. It is unclear whether the high temperature was responsible for Branham’s death. The Inyo County Coroner Office said it is investigating the cause, according to the joint statement. (RELATED: Man Falls 95 Feet To His Death At Death Valley National Park)
National Weather Service data earlier this month showed Death Valley recorded a high temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit, The Associated Press reported. The area also claims to hold the record for the highest recorded temperature in the world at 134 degrees Fahrenheit, set in 1913, though some have disputed its accuracy.
“Park rangers urge summer travelers to visit Death Valley safely by hiking only before 10 am or at high elevations, drinking plenty of water, eating snacks, and by staying close to an air-conditioned building or vehicle to cool down in,” the statement concluded.