Death Valley visitor dies from extreme heat, as temperature hits near world record

Heat exposure claimed the life of a visitor to Death Valley and sickened other members of the person’s group over the weekend, as temperatures soared to near record levels in the area.

The National Park Service (NPS) said the victim was part of a group of motorcyclists who all fell ill from the extreme conditions. They were near Badwater Basin, recognized as the lowest point in North America, with a depth of 282 feet below sea level.

Four people were treated at the scene, and another park visitor was transported to "advanced medical care in Las Vegas," due to severe heat illness, park service officials said in a statement.

There’s no word on the identity of the motorcyclist who died, the person's age or place of residence.

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Park officials warned that once heat index exceeds 99 degrees, ambient air stops working as a source of relief. And for motorcyclists riding through the area, the risk of heat illness was even higher. 

"Besides not being able to cool down while riding due to high ambient air temperatures, experiencing Death Valley by motorcycle when it is this hot is further challenged by the necessary heavy safety gear worn to reduce injuries during an accident." park officials said.  

File of the National Park Service search and rescue team starting down Death Valley's Golden Canyon trail, passing a heat warning sign.  (National Park Service)

Park officials also warned against hiking and other strenuous activities, especially at lower elevations.

To stay safe from the heat, the NPS advised visitors: 

  • Reschedule outdoor activities: If possible, postpone hikes and enjoy the park when temperatures are cooler. Visit visitor centers, explore exhibits, or relax in air-conditioned areas.
  • Minimize outdoor time: If you must go outside, stay close to air conditioning and limit your time in direct sunlight.
  • Hydrate and replenish electrolytes: Drink plenty of water before, during, and after any outdoor activity, even if you don't feel thirsty. Pack electrolyte-rich snacks or drinks to replace salts lost through sweat.

Deputy Ryan Reuther of the Inyo County Sheriffs Office was out patrolling Death Valley on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Inyo County Sheriffs Office)

On Saturday, park officials said preliminary data recorded a high of 128 degrees Fahrenheit in Death Valley.

It came close to breaking its own record as having the highest temperature ever "reliably" recorded on the planet at 134 degrees, which was set on July 10, 1913, in the Furnace Creek area of the desert.

"While this is a very exciting time to experience potential world record setting temperatures in Death Valley, we encourage visitors to choose their activities carefully, avoiding prolonged periods of time outside of an air-conditioned vehicle or building when temperatures are this high," said the park’s superintendent Mike Reynolds.

The death of the motorcyclist came amid a prolonged heat wave that's gripped much of the Western U.S. including the Bay Area. 

On Monday, there was some relief for many parts of the Bay Area, as fog rolled in, though warm temperatures were expected to linger throughout the week.  

SEE ALSO: Heat wave has peaked, but higher temps not gone yet

In many Bay Area locations, an excessive heat warning, triggered by temperatures in the mid 90s to 105 degrees, was downgraded to a heat advisory. That's when temperatures fall in the range of 80 degrees to the 90s.

On social media, the National Weather Service said, "The good news: many of our Excessive Heat Warnings were downgraded to Heat Advisories. The bad news: those advisories were extended through Friday."