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Killer heat: Man found dead in Death Valley after running out of gas as record temperatures scorch California

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David McNew/Getty Images

A California man was found dead in Death Valley National Park after his car ran out of gas, according to officials. The area has been scorched by record temperatures in the past week.

David Kelleher, 67, was found dead in the park by visitors on Tuesday.

"A crumpled note inside Kelleher’s vehicle said, 'Out of gas.' Kelleher had also mentioned being low on gas when contacted by a park ranger May 30 near Dantes View Road," the National Park Service said Wednesday in a press release.

Kelleher, of Huntington Beach, appears to have been walking from Zabriskie Point toward Furnace Creek after his car ran out of gas.

A park ranger noticed there was one vehicle in the Zabriskie Point parking lot on the morning of June 8. The same park ranger saw the same car in the parking lot on the evening of June 11.

On May 30, a park ranger issued a citation to Kelleher for driving off-road. At the time, Kelleher informed the park ranger that he was low on gas.

Park rangers launched a ground and aerial search for Kelleher, who had not previously been reported missing. However, the search was limited due to sweltering weather.

On June 14, Kelleher’s body was found by park visitors around 2 p.m., a little more than 2 miles from his vehicle. He was only 30 feet from California Highway 190, but his body was obscured by terrain and a mesquite tree.

This is the second fatality at Death Valley National Park this month. After two days of ground and air searches, John McCarry, 69, was found deceased in Panamint Valley on June 1, according to the National Park Service.

In 2021, six people died while hiking in Death Valley National Park. Two people died after falling from cliffs, and four perished from extreme heat.

The National Park Service rangers recommend that in extreme heat, people should wait at the disabled vehicle, rather than attempting to walk for assistance. The National Park Service also advises park visitors not to hike at low elevations after 10 a.m., to stay within a short walk of air conditioning, to drink plenty of water, and to eat salty snacks.

On Friday, Death Valley hit a record-breaking daily temperature of 123 degrees – surpassing the previous high set on the same day in 1921. The mercury spiked again on Saturday when the California desert soared to 122 degrees.

Death Valley holds the record for the hottest temperature on the planet. The Furnace Creek area of Death Valley reached a blistering temperature of 134 degrees on July 11, 1913. Death Valley also recorded a temperature of 130 degrees on August 16, 2020, and June 17, 2021.

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