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Death Valley National Park visitor found dead after walking for gas, say park officials

Stella Chan, CNN

A Death Valley National Park tourist was found dead Tuesday after his car ran out of gas, the National Park Service (NPS) reports.

A park ranger noticed a lone car in the parking lot on June 8 at Zabriskie Point, a popular spot to view sunrise and sunset, according to an NPS press release. The same ranger noticed the car still in the lot three days later.

A note that read “Out of gas” was found inside the car, which was registered to David W. Kelleher, 67, of Huntington Beach, California. Temperatures hit a sweltering 123 degrees, say NPS, limiting search efforts. He had not been reported missing but officials noted that Kelleher was cited for off-road driving on May 30 and had mentioned he was low on gas when a park ranger contacted him.

“Kelleher’s body was found by park visitors around 2 p.m. on June 14. Kelleher was about 2.5 miles from their vehicle, but only about 30 feet from California Highway 190, obscured by terrain and a mesquite tree,” according to NPS. During extreme heat, visitors are advised to stay by their vehicles and wait for assistance.

Kelleher’s death isn’t the first this month for the park, which straddles California and Nevada.

According to NPS, John McCarry, 69, of Long Beach, was found dead in Panamint Valley on June 1. And in late May, park officials initiated a search for Peter Harootunian whose vehicle was found abandoned in Emigrant Campground; he has not been found.

“In this below-sea-level basin, steady drought and record summer heat make Death Valley a land of extremes,” according to the NPS. “Despite its morbid name, a great diversity of life survives in Death Valley.”

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