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Extreme heat hampers search for tourist missing in Mojave Desert after companion is found dead

Extreme heat hampers search for tourist missing in Mojave Desert after companion is found dead
Susan and Wulliam Schmierer (San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department)

The search for a Virginia woman who went missing near Amboy Crater in the Mojave Desert is being hampered by the rugged terrain and triple-digit ground temperatures that are too hot for search dogs.

Susan Schmierer, 65, and William Schmierer, 64, tourists from Virginia on a cross-country road trip to Palm Springs, were last seen June 2 near the 250-foot-high volcanic cinder cone surrounded by a field of black lava rocks off Interstate 40.

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Authorities noticed the couple’s car at the trailhead parking lot about 10 days later.

Search and rescue personnel located William Schmierer’s remains near a trail leading to the crater three days after their car was found, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. His cause of death is undetermined, but authorities say foul play is not suspected at this time.

The ongoing search for Susan Schmierer has been hampered by the area’s unforgiving environment. The area of desert between Barstow and Needles, just off historic Route 66, is where NASA used to test the Mars Rover.

Rescue dogs were called off during a search the last weekend in June after ground temperatures reached 130 degrees at 10:30 a.m., according to the Sheriff’s Department. By 2 p.m. the ground temperatures near the crater hit a blistering 165 degrees while the air temperature reached 117 degrees.

The rough terrain and weather conditions disabled two Sheriff’s Department off-road search and rescue vehicles as well.

“That is actual black lava rock so it gets very hot,” said Jodi Miller, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Department. “It really creates an unsafe condition.”

There was no search last weekend because weather forecasts predicted thunderstorms and flash floods for the area, Miller said.

Miller said another search operation is scheduled for July 28, regardless of the heat.

It is not the first death near the crater.

A husband and wife were found dead about 100 yards from each other in the open desert in August 2017 after they went hiking in 113 degree heat.

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