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Man found dead by park visitors in Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park.PNG
Posted at 2:13 PM, Jun 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-17 11:13:38-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The body of David Kelleher, 67, was found on Tuesday in Death Valley National Park by two park visitors. Officials say it appears Kelleher was walking from Zabriskie Point toward Furnace Creek after running out of gas.

On the morning of June 8, a park ranger noticed a single vehicle in the Zabriskie Point parking lot. On the evening of June 11, the park ranger saw the same vehicle and remembered it from three days earlier. A recent heat wave caused record temperatures up to 123 degrees. 

The vehicle was registered to David W. Kelleher of Huntington Beach. Park rangers initiated an investigation and learned that Kelleher had not been reported missing. A records search also showed that Kelleher had been cited by a park ranger for off-road driving on May 30.

Though the ground and aerial searches were limited by hot weather, the search was focused on the Golden Canyon and Badlands Trails, rather than where he was later found.

Rangers found a crumpled note inside Kelleher’s vehicle that said, “Out of gas”. Kelleher had also mentioned being low on gas when contacted by a park ranger on May 30 near Dantes View Road. Kelleher’s vehicle was parked at one of the park’s most popular viewpoints.

Park rangers recommend waiting at a broken vehicle in extreme heat, rather than attempting to walk for assistance.

Kelleher’s body was found by park visitors around 2 p.m. on June 14. Kelleher was about two and a half miles from their vehicle, but only about 30 feet from California Highway 190, obscured by terrain and a mesquite tree.

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.

This is the park’s second recent fatality. John McCarry, 69, of Long Beach, was found deceased in Panamint Valley on June 1.

A separate search started on May 23 for Peter Harootunian, whose vehicle was noticed by National Park Service staff abandoned in Emigrant Campground. Harootunian has not been found, and the search has been scaled back to limited and continuous.

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