A French couple was found dead hiking in a New Mexico desert but saved their 9-year-old son by giving him their share of water said, Otero County Sheriff Benny House.
The couple Ornella Steiner, 51, and David Steiner, 42 from Bourgonge France were found dead last week on the trail of White Sands National Monument. The place is a treeless desert and stretched about 226miles from Albuquerque.
The 9-year-old boy was found dehydrated next to his fathers body. House said, though the couple did not carry enough water they gave most of it to their son.
"The parents would take a drink and give him two drinks, said House. "I'm sure that's a contributing factor in how he fared so well." He added.
The autopsy report is not complete yet but shows clear signs of heart related deaths, said the sheriff. The deaths are very unusual for the area as the National Park Service operates in more than 408 sites all across the country.
The place had more than 2.3 billion guests and a total of 1025 fatalities occurred in the park, most common of which were 365 people who died of drowning. Car crashes had the second largest fatality rates with 210 deaths between 2007 and 2013. 178 people were killed by falls but in the category of heart-related illness the number mounts up to 26.3
No Water, No Hope
The park newsletter advises all travellers to carry 1 gallon (128 ounces) per person for a hike. "It was the perfect storm for this family. They started off the trek with two 20-ounce bottles of water. When we got there, there was no water left in the bottles," said House.
The family had apparently travelled to the park last Tuesday to witness the magnificence of the sand dunes. Temperature rose to an alarming 100 degrees on the day which is normal for early August in the area said, Marie Sauter, the park superintendent.
"There is no shade," she said, There is no cover. You are out exposed to the sun, the wind the heat, the reflection of the sun off the white sand. It's a harsh desert environment." She added.
The family had gone on the Alkali Flat Trail, which is a 4.6-mile loop marked only by posts. The couple either rolled down or fell down away from the trail, said the sheriff. But he is not sure whether it was an accident or not.
The surviving son told the investigators that the mother was not feeling well and had a knee injury. She tried to make it back to the trail but fainted at 300 feet. The park services were on patrol when they found the mother dead around 5:00pm. They found the boy beside the fathers body about 45 minutes later
The boys grandmother would now be taking care of him and has flown from France to Albuquerque.
"He wasn't crying," House said, but "he was dehydrated and of course he was upset." He added.
The Desert a cruel place
The sheriff said that David Steiner and his son kept on walking for another 2000 feet unaware of Ornella Steiners collapse. The boy with the help of an interpreter described his father confused and worried. House said that the unsettled behavior were common symptoms of a heart stroke.
Davids tongue was swollen and he kept on telling his son "the truck is right up there," said the sheriff
The surviving son was taken to a hospital and French consular officials were notified of the incident. The mother of a deputy's girlfriend acted as an interpreter and helped the situation.
This marks the 4th death in the park in the past 10 years said the sheriff. They were not ready for the harsh weather and "I just think they underestimated the desert," he concluded.
Watch the whole story here - Source: CNN