In what appears to be the second heat-related fatality in Death Valley National Park this year, the body of a motorist was found Sunday five miles from a little-used road.
Linda Pi-Wei Hung, 40, of Las Vegas, was last heard from Saturday afternoon on her way from that city to Ft. Irwin, authorities said. County and federal search teams using two helicopters started scouring the desert north of Baker early Sunday afternoon.
At 2:30 p.m., they found Hung’s vehicle along Harry Wade Road, a lonely dirt road in the park’s southern end, according to the National Park Service. Rangers speculate that Hung started walking across the baking desert after her vehicle got stuck in the sand while she was attempting to turn around. The day’s high was 113 degrees.
An autopsy has not yet been performed but the San Bernardino County Coroner’s Office said it appears Hung died of heat exposure.
On June 9, when temperatures in Death Valley climbed to 118 degrees, visitors found the body of Reinhard Egger, 60, a German citizen, near his motorcycle. It was parked upright on Harry Wade Road and was still functional. The Inyo County Coroner’s Office found that Egger had died from overheating.
Earlier this month, a 56-year-old woman died of heat-related causes while hiking with her family in Joshua Tree National Park.
Every year, one or two people die of heat exposure in Death Valley, said park management assistant Abby Wines.
It was unknown if Hung had water, but Wines said people can succumb to Death Valley’s soaring temperatures even if they have enough to drink.
If stranded, she added, the best thing visitors can do is stay with their vehicle, which offers shade and can be easily spotted by search teams.