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Man found in Death Valley National Park after his car runs out of gas, officials say

David Kelleher, 67, appears to have walked from Zabriskie Point toward Furnace Creek after running out of gas, authorities said. A heat wave caused record temperatures.
An iconic Death Valley vista Zabriskie Point
Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park, Calif.Tayfun Coskun / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images file

A man was found dead after his car ran out of gas and he appeared to search for help on foot amid scorching temperatures in Death Valley National Park in California, according to officials. 

The body of David Kelleher, 67, of Huntington Beach, was found Tuesday by park visitors, the National Park Service said Wednesday in a news release. 

His car was noticed by a park ranger on the morning of June 8 as it was the only one in the Zabriskie Point parking lot, one of the park’s most popular viewpoints, the release said.

A crumpled note inside of the vehicle read “Out of gas,” officials said.

Three days later, the same park ranger saw the same vehicle in the parking lot and remembered it. Park rangers launched an investigation and learned Kelleher had not been reported missing. 

However, a search of records revealed he had received an off-road driving citation on May 30 — the same day he told a park ranger he was low on gas near Dantes View Road, according to the release. It is not clear how officials responded after he made that disclosure.

A ground and aerial search was limited due to the hot weather and focused on the Golden Canyon and Badlands Trails.

Kelleher disappeared amid a heat wave that saw temperatures in Death Valley increase to 123 degrees.

Ultimately, Kelleher’s body was found around 2 p.m. Tuesday about two and a half miles from his vehicle and about 30 feet from California Highway 190, according to the park service. It was “obscured by terrain and a mesquite tree,” officials said.

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

In extreme heat, people should wait at a broken vehicle rather than walk for assistance, according to the park service.

"The National Park Service encourages park visitors to stay safe in the summer by not hiking at low elevations after 10 am, staying within a short walk of air conditioning, drinking plenty of water, and eating salty snacks," officials said.

Kelleher's death marks the second recent fatality at the sprawling park.

John McCarry, 69, of Long Beach, was found dead in Panamint Valley on June 1. 

Death Valley National Park is located east of the Sierra Nevada mountains along the California-Nevada border.

The park is known as the hottest, driest and lowest national park and “a land of extremes” due to drought and sweltering summer temperatures, according to the park service.