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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

2 women found dead after going hiking in Nevada park

The Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. The two women were reported missing by a group of hikers after they failed to return to their vehicles on Saturday.


Two women who had been hiking at a Nevada state park were found dead Saturday, park rangers said, as record-breaking heat waves rippled through the region and sent temperatures rising through parts of the western and southwestern United States.

The coroner’s office in Clark County, Nevada, identified the women as Jessica Rhodes, 34, and Diana Matienzo Rivera, 29. State park rangers said that they had been hiking the Prospect Trail together in the Valley of Fire State Park, a desert area known for its sandstone and limestone outcroppings and rock formations that is about 45 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

Summer temperatures in the park often exceed 100 degrees and can reach 120 degrees, according to park officials.

A group of hikers reported the women missing about 10:30 a.m. after they failed to return to their vehicles Saturday, said Jonathan Brunjes, deputy administrator for Nevada State Parks.

Park rangers conducted a search and, about an hour later, found the body of one of the women on the trail, which stretches 11 miles. The body of the second woman was found about 2 p.m. that day, near a canyon that the trail bisects, leading the rangers to believe that she had gone searching for help.

The coroner’s office said Monday that it was still investigating the cause of death for the two women. Relatives of Rhodes could not immediately be reached. The family of Rivera declined to comment.

Brunjes said that the deaths were possibly linked to heat exhaustion.

“Anytime you’re going hiking you should go extremely early, carry at least a liter of water and wear light-colored clothing,” he said. “We can’t emphasize these things enough.”

The women, Brunjes added, had worn dark-colored clothing and did not seem to have been carrying enough water.

Cities across the United States have been coping with punishing heat waves; this summer is one of the hottest on record. The past month was the hottest June since scientists began recording global temperatures in 1850, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said last week.

For 10 consecutive days as of Sunday, temperatures in Las Vegas had reached or exceeded 110 degrees, tying a record for the city, the National Weather Service in Las Vegas said. Temperatures reached a record-breaking 115 degrees in some parts of the city Saturday, prompting the weather service to put all of southern Nevada under an excessive heat warning.

The Southern Nevada Health District, a public health authority for Clark County and other areas in southern Nevada, said in a July 13 statement that there had been seven heat-related deaths reported in the county so far this year. Clark County recorded 152 such deaths in all of last year, with triple-digit temperatures commonly occurring between June and September in the region.

Last Tuesday, a 71-year-old hiker died from what appeared to be heat-related causes in Death Valley National Park, California, about 180 miles west of the Valley of Fire, according to the National Park Service. Temperatures there had soared to 121 degrees, the park service said. His death came about two weeks after park authorities found a 65-year-old man dead in his vehicle in the valley, and authorities said “extreme heat” appeared to be the cause.

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