Another hiker has died in Death Valley, the second hiker fatality in three weeks, with extreme heat the likely cause of both deaths.
The most recent death occurred when Lawrence Stanback, 60, San Francisco, died while hiking near Red Cathedral along the Golden Canyon Trail in Death Valley National Park on Wednesday, Aug. 18, according to Death Valley National Park and the Inyo County Sheriff's Office.
National park staff received a report of suspected heat stroke and CPR in progress at 1:40 p.m. An inter-agency search and rescue was initiated, with park rangers responding on foot locating Stanback and confirming that he was deceased.
California Highway Patrol Inland Division Air Operations helicopter H-80 responded to assist with the recovery, but winds were too strong to safely land.
In the cooler evening hours, national park staff were able to safely complete the recovery.
The Inyo County Sheriff’s Office and Inyo County Coroner are investigating the cause of death.
Three weeks earlier, sometime between July 25 and July 28, a Washington man died while trying to from the lowest point in the United States, called Badwater, to the other side of Death Valley to West Side Road, a 12-mile round trip across open desert.
A California Highway Patrol (CHP) helicopter crew later found his body about two miles from the closest road in the park, according to the Inyo County Sheriff's Office and Death Valley National Park at the time but helicopter rotors struggled to create enough lift in the hot air, with temperatures at about 115 degrees at the time. The helicopter then had to land at Furnace Creek airport to off-load equipment to lighten the helicopter before returning with a park ranger to recover the hiker's body.
The Inyo County Coroner Office is investigating the cause of death. Branham likely started his hike on July 25, when temperatures were up to 118 degrees, with humidity up to 91 percent.
Park rangers urge summer travelers to visit Death Valley safely by hiking only before 10 a.m. or at high elevations, drinking plenty of water, eating snacks, and by staying close to an air-conditioned building or vehicle to cool down or stay in the shade.