Hiking with the family is a great bonding experience and a good exposure to nature. However, the activity entails lots of preparations and physical and mental strength before one can embark on this journey. Food, medicines and lots of water are the basic must-haves for survival. We need to have these all so as to have a fruitful and safe adventure.
Unfortunately, for a French family from the small town of Bourgogne, near the city of Reims, France, their hiking trip did not go as planned.
David Steiner, 42, and his wife, Ornella Steiner, 51 together with their 9-year-old son Enzo went on a hiking trip at White Sands National Monument, Otero County, New Mexico. David spent more than a year planning this family’s ultimate summer holiday in the United States. Unfortunately, the dream holiday came to a nightmare end at the picturesque dunes of New Mexico’s White Sands National Monument.
At the start of their trip, which began at around 1 p.m, the family brought with them two 590 mL water bottles — much less than the 3.8 litres of water the park recommends for each hiker.
About a 1.6 kilometers into the 7.4 kilometer walk, Ornella complained of being ill. She stumbled and sustained a knee injury, so she decided to return to the vehicle and asked David and Enzo to continue on their trek. She only made it about 90 meters on her way back to the car when she collapsed in the scorching heat.
The patrolling rangers found her dead, with photos of David and Enzo on her phone which sparked a massive search for them in the bleached desert. Meanwhile, David and Enzo kept walking unaware that Ornella was in trouble. About 800 meters later, David began to grow delirious and disoriented in the heat.
“He started to make some bad decisions,” the local sheriff, Benny House, said. “He kept telling the son that the vehicle was ‘right over there, right over there. The heat was affecting his judgment.”
After less than an hour of following their footprints, the rangers found David and Enzo slightly off track. David was already dead, having succumbed to the intense heat that probably also claimed his wife. Remarkably, Enzo was dehydrated but generally in good condition. Not knowing what to do when his father collapsed, he stayed with him until they were found.
“He wasn’t crying, but he was dehydrated and, of course, he was upset,” Sheriff House said.
Enzo was treated in hospital for heat exhaustion and dehydration. He told the investigators, through a translator, that his mother and father had taken one mouthful of water while they made him take two.
Here is the video report:
“That may be why he fared so well, is he was a lot smaller and probably had twice as much water,” House said. “He was well hydrated, compared to the other two.”
An autopsy will be performed to determine the exact cause of death but as per initial reports, the couple is believed to have died due to heat-related causes.
The family specifically hiked at the Alkali Flat, which is popular for its crystalline-white sand dunes and a dry lake bed towards its edge.
The temperature at that time was 101 degrees Fahrenheit, says the National Weather Service. There was no vegetation and shade and because of the hot summer, warning signs instructing visitors to hike during cool hours and bringing one gallon of water per person, were posted at the park in several languages, including French.
The boy’s grandmother claimed the boy, after flying all the way from Albuquerque.
White Sands National Monument (simply referred to as White Sands) is a national monument in New Mexico, U.S.A. 15 miles (25 kilometers) southwest of Alamogordo. The area rests within the Tularosa Basin and is covered with a rare form of sand made from gypsum crystals. Great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert, creating the world’s largest gypsum dunefield.
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