Death Valley National Park

Huntington Beach Man Found Dead in Death Valley NP Ran Out of Gas, Officials Say

A note found in the 67-year-old man's car indicates he was looking for help after he ran out of gas in the extreme heat of California's Death Valley National Park.

A view from Death Valley National Park's Zabriskie Point.
NPS

A Huntington Beach man found dead in California's Death Valley National Park apparently was searching for help after he ran out of gas on a day of extreme heat, park officials said.

The body of 67-year-old David Kelleher was found just a couple dozen feet from a highway Tuesday by park visitors, about a week after a park ranger found a lone car in Zabriskie Point parking lot. Three days later, the same park ranger noticed the same car -- again, the only car -- in the lot at the famous viewpoint.

A crumpled note inside the car registered to Kelleher read, "Out of gas."

Kelleher had not been reported missing at the time, and authorities began a ground and aerial search focused on the Golden Canyon and Badlands Trails. The search was limited due to heat.

Temperatures in the park reached 123 degrees during the week of Kelleher's disappearance.

Kelleher's body was found by park visitors at about 2 p.m. Tuesday, more than two miles from his car and about 30 feet from Highway 190. The highway would have been obscured by terrain and a mesquite tree from Kelleher's view, park officials said.

He appeared to be walking from Zabriskie Point toward Furnace Creek after running out of gas, officials said.

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Kelleher also mentioned being low on gas when he was given an off-road driving citation May 30 by a park ranger near Dantes View Road.

Kelleher's death marks the second recent fatality at the park. A 69-year-old Long Beach man was found dead June 1 in Panamint Valley.

Park rangers say that in extreme heat people should wait in their cars when they need help, rather than walking to find assistance. They added that Kelleher's car was at one of the most popular viewpoints at the park east of the Sierra Nevada mountains along the California-Nevada border.

It is known as the hottest, driest and lowest national park.

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