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Trapped hiker suffering in 108-degree heat rescued from cliffside by chopper in Palm Springs

Western states endure second heat wave
Western states endure second heat wave 02:48

Southern California, Arizona and Nevada are getting blasted by another potentially deadly heat wave, with temperatures in the triple digits.

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.

When lead national correspondent David Begnaud was in Palm Springs on Thursday, the temperature just after 1 p.m. was 108 degrees. And that was when the call came in to 911, of a hiker in distress, trapped on the side of a cliff and unprepared to deal with the dangerous conditions. "I'm not injured, I've just been in the sun, just sunburned," the caller said.

"What we're gonna do, we'll getting the exact GPS coordinates of the patient, ping him from his cell phone, get up to the patient if we can," said Captain Nathan Gunkel of the Palm Springs Fire Department.

A crew of 20, some of them volunteer search-and-rescuers, raced to the scene. The decision was made to rescue the man by hoisting him with a Riverside County Sheriff's Department helicopter.

Rescuers said the man shouldn't have been out there in the first place.

Begnaud asked, "Is any kind of hiking recommended in these temperatures?"

"No hiking when it's above 100 degrees," said Gunkel.

The rescue operation was a success. The trapped hiker, known only as James, was flown to safety.

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First responders airlifted a hiker trapped on a cliff in Palm Springs, California.  CBS News

He was "very lucky," said one responder. "He still had a cell phone signal. But look at the way he was dressed: a pair of shorts. The sun's gonna cook you out here."

James told Begnaud, "I was on the edge of a cliff. He went down somewhere and I went down somewhere. I took rocks out of my shoes, and lost track of him, and that was it."

James was lucky. Geoffrey-Martin Cyr was not.

The last known photo of him, taken in mid-June, shows Cyr lounging by the pool during the last heat wave. And that, said officials, was all he was doing, for more than an hour – not hiking, nothing strenuous. But it was 119 degrees that day, tying a record.

He was planning on meeting his friend, Jill Langham, for a drink at a bar called Hunters. He sent her an ominous text message: "So winded! Will explain when I see you. Inching my way toward Hunters. See you there."

He never made it. Cyr collapsed, and later died from complications related to heat stroke. His body temperature was reportedly 105 degrees Fahrenheit.

When it's hot, avoid strenuous activities; drink plenty of water; try to avoid direct sunlight; and if you're out in the heat and you feel dizzy or nauseous, it's time to call 911.

CBS News meteorologist Jeff Berardelli says the heat wave – a once-in-a-decade event – will be with us through the weekend into Monday, with temperatures in Death Valley expected to reach 130 degrees tomorrow, the highest temperature ever reliably recorded.

Berardelli also notes that a study just completed by the World Weather Attribution network says that the most extraordinary heat wave ever observed in the Pacific Northwest in modern times would have been "virtually impossible" without climate change.

The devastating heat wave, which caused mass deaths of shellfish along the British Columbia coastline, cooking them in their own shells, was made at least 150 times more likely and nearly 4 degrees hotter due to climate change.

How to stay safe in extreme heat 03:02
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