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Hiker found dead in Death Valley National Park

Death Valley sets heat record
Death Valley sets heat record 00:32

A hiker from Washington state has been found dead in Death Valley National Park, where temperatures can be among the hottest on Earth, authorities said Thursday. Douglas Branham, 68, of Tukwila, had planned a 12-mile round trip through the salt flats of the California park but missed a flight home on Tuesday.

A California Highway Patrol helicopter crew discovered his body Wednesday about 2 miles from the closest road, according to a joint statement from the park and the Inyo County Sheriff's Office.  

"Helicopter rotors struggle to create enough lift in hot air, and temperatures were about 115 degrees Fahrenheit at the time," the statement said.

Joint press release with Death Valley National Park Hiker fatality in Death Valley DEATH VALLEY, CA – A California...

Posted by Inyo County Sheriff's Office on Thursday, July 29, 2021

The helicopter had to land and unload equipment to reduce weight before returning with a park ranger to recover the body, officials said.

Branham probably began his hike on Sunday or Monday, when temperatures hit 118 degrees Fahrenheit with 91% humidity, the statement said.

The Inyo County coroner's office is investigating the cause of his death.

On July 9, the National Weather Service said Death Valley recorded a high temperature of 130 F. Death Valley holds the record for the highest recorded temperature on Earth at 134 F, set in 1913, although some dispute its accuracy.

Earlier this month, CBS News correspondent David Begnaud reported first responders in Palm Springs, California, where the desert heat is an extreme threat, have seen an uptick in distress calls coming from people who should not be outside.

"No hiking when it's above 100 degrees," said Captain Nathan Gunkel of the Palm Springs Fire Department.

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