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Man dies in Death Valley as temperatures hit 121 degrees

A tourist died while visiting Death Valley on Tuesday afternoon, and his death may have been related to heat, the National Park Service said, as temperatures that afternoon were 121 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The 71-year-old man was from the Los Angeles area. He collapsed outside the restroom at Golden Canyon, a popular hiking trail, according to the NPS. Other visitors of the California park noticed the man and called for help.

Members of the NPS and the local sheriff's office responded, but a medical transport helicopter was not able to respond because of the high temperatures. Life-saving measures, including CPR and the use of a defibrillator, were attempted but failed. 

Annual Badwater Ultra Marathon Held In Death Valley's Extreme Heat
Heat waves rise near a heat danger warning sign in Death Valley National Park, California.  David McNew / Getty Images

While his cause of death has not yet been determined, the NPS said park rangers "suspect heat was a factor," considering the temperatures in the area. The official temperature at Furnace Creek, near where the man had been hiking, was 121 degrees Fahrenheit, and temperatures inside the canyon would likely have been "much higher, due canyon walls radiating the sun's heat." 

Death Valley is typically one of the hottest places on Earth, thanks to its dry air, scant plant coverage, and rock features and formations that reflect heat back into the area. As a heat wave threatens the Southwest, sending temperatures in Arizona spiking and putting about one-third of Americans under a heat advisory, watch or warning, tourists have flocked to Furnace Creek, an unincorporated community in Death Valley that features a large outdoor thermometer tracking the temperature. 

CBS News has previously reported that tourists visiting the thermometer have engaged in dangerous activities, like wearing fur coats in the heat or going for runs in the area. According to the National Weather Service, Death Valley has reached over 110 degrees Fahrenheit on 28 days this year. 

Extreme Heat Settles Over California
People visit the unofficial thermometer reading 133 degrees Fahrenheit/56 degrees Celsius at Furnace Creek Visitor Center on July 11, 2021 in Death Valley National Park, California. / Getty Images

This may be the second heat-related fatality in Death Valley this summer, the NPS said. 

A 65-year-old man died on July 3 and was found in his car, which was off-road and had two flat tires. Heat-related illness may have caused him to turn off the road, the NPS said. 

To stay safe while visiting the valley, the NPS recommends sightseeing short distances from air-conditioned vehicles or hiking on the park's cooler mountains. Anyone experiencing signs of heatstroke, including a throbbing headache, dizziness and light-headedness, a lack of sweat, and other symptoms should seek immediate medical help. 

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