An 11-year-old boy died in the intense heat of Death Valley National Park after he and his mother became stranded and survived for several days on bottled water, Pop-Tarts and cheese sandwiches, authorities said Friday.
Alicia Sanchez, 28, of Las Vegas was found severely dehydrated and remained hospitalized in that city a day after being found with her dead son, her dog and a Jeep Cherokee buried up to its axles in sand.
She told rescuers in San Bernardino County that her son Carlos died Wednesday, days after she fixed a flat tire and continued into Death Valley, relying on directions from a GPS device in the vehicle.
"It's in about as remote and isolated an area as you can find," Death Valley National Park Chief Ranger Brent Pennington said. "How she got to that point, I don't know."
Pennington said Sanchez was found by a ranger who followed tire tracks off a dirt road into the Owlshead Mountains near the China Lake Naval Air Station, just inside the southwest corner of the vast national park near the California-Nevada state line. Summer temperatures commonly run above 120 degrees in Death Valley, with the average daytime August temperature about 113. The high Tuesday and Wednesday was 111, with a low of 96 early Tuesday.
An autopsy on the boy is scheduled for next week, but foul play was not suspected in his death, San Bernardino County sheriff's spokeswoman Cindy Beavers said.
The family's pet dachshund survived and was being cared for by deputies.
Officials said Sanchez and her son set out last Saturday with a case of 24 16-ounce bottles of water and food on what was to be an overnight camping trip.
There were conflicting reports about when they became stranded. By all accounts, no one reported them missing until Wednesday.
Pennington said an air and ground search was launched at dawn Thursday, and the woman and her son's body were found about 11 a.m.