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Hiker found dead on trail in Grand Canyon, second such fatality in 2 months

A hiker was found dead along a trail in the Grand Canyon last week, marking the second such fatality in two months at the national park. Officials have identified the hiker as James Handschy, a 65-year-old man from Oracle, Arizona, which is near Tucson. 

Rescuers and Grand Canyon park rangers found Handschy unresponsive on Thursday, after the park's regional communications center received an alert from a personal locator beacon — a device that hikers can use to transmit individual distress signals from remote areas — on Bright Angel Trail, the National Park Service said. 

One of several backcountry trails in the Grand Canyon that have become popular routes for visitors, Bright Angel Trail takes hikers from a trailhead along the South Rim down to the Colorado River, which runs through the bottom of the canyon. The distance from the trailhead to the river is just shy of eight miles, with an elevation change of about 4,460 feet, according to the park service. It passes through Havasupai Gardens, a rest area less than five miles from the start of the trail. 

On Thursday the personalized distress signal came from a spot on Bright Angel Trail roughly 1 1/2 miles ahead of Havasupai Gardens, the park service said, noting that a rescuer at the campground responded immediately on foot. Another search and rescue crew with the park service responded in a helicopter, and pronounced Handschy deceased when they arrived at the scene. 

A section of the Bright Angel Trail called Devil's Corkscrew is pictured in this image provided by the National Park Service. NPS/J. Baird

An investigation into Handschy's death is being conducted by the National Park Service in coordination with the Coconino County Medical Examiner, the park service said. There was no additional information available about the incident. 

Handschy's death was at least the 10th this year in Grand Canyon National Park, the Associated Press reported, citing a park spokesperson. At least four deaths in the park this year have been hiking-related, three of which happened along Bright Angel Trail. CBS News contacted the National Park Service for confirmation but did not receive an immediate response.

Handschy's death came only two months after a 55-year-old man from Virginia died in mid-September while attempting to hike 21 miles through the Grand Canyon in a single day. Officials said at the time that the hiker was found dead along a trail that runs from the South Rim to the North Rim, in a location that can take about 12 to 15 hours to reach from the trailhead.

In September, a 36-year-old woman from Indiana died while attempting to complete the same hike as Handschy. Officials said she was found unresponsive near the Three-Mile Resthouse on Bright Angel Trail. In July, a 57-year-old woman died while trying to complete an eight-mile hike as temperatures in the Grand Canyon reached triple digits.

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