A teenage boy and his stepfather died in Big Bend National Park in Texas as temperatures there rose to 119 degrees Fahrenheit — the second-highest mark ever recorded in the state — during a triple-digit heat wave that has gripped much of the region.
The man and his two stepsons were hiking late Friday afternoon, park officials said in a statement over the weekend, when the younger stepson, who was 14, lost consciousness. His brother, 21, tried to carry the boy back to the trailhead while the stepfather rushed to his vehicle to seek help.
By the time park rangers and Border Patrol agents reached the boy, he had died, officials said. The man, 31, was later found dead in his vehicle, which had crashed.
The three had been hiking on the Marufo Vega Trail, which “winds through extremely rugged desert and rocky cliffs within the hottest part of Big Bend National Park,” the officials’ statement said. It added that hikers on the trail have no access to shade or water, making it “dangerous to attempt in the heat of summer.”
The park is near the United States border with Mexico.
Hikers have succumbed to extreme conditions during several other heat waves in the United States in recent years. The death of two experienced hikers and their 1-year-old daughter in the Sierra National Forest of California in 2021 confounded investigators for two months, until officials determined that they had died from the effects of heat stroke and possible dehydration in 110-degree weather.
Last July, a 22-year-old man died, reportedly of heat exhaustion, after he ran out of water while hiking in the Badlands of South Dakota. In September, another hiker died and five more were rescued after suffering from extreme heat in Arizona. In April, a man died on a hiking trail in Lakeside, Calif., after suffering symptoms of heat exhaustion.
Big Bend park officials said they received a call for help around 6 p.m. on Friday, and reached the teenager at 7:30 p.m. Around 8 p.m., the stepfather’s vehicle was found crashed over an embankment. The crash remains under investigation.
The authorities said that the three hikers were from Florida, but did not give their names. The 21-year-old brother who survived has returned home, officials said on Monday.
The dome is forecast to shift slowly to the east during the week, extending the brutally hot weather to Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Forecasters say the pattern could continue through the Fourth of July holiday.
The afternoon high of 119 degrees in the Big Bend area on Friday, the day the boy and his stepfather died, came within one degree of tying the state’s previous high for any date, of 120 degrees Fahrenheit, first recorded in 1936 and equaled in 1994, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
John Keefe contributed reporting.