WHITE SANDS NATIONAL MONUMENT – The New Mexico State Police continue their investigation of a man who died while hiking on a trail at White Sands National Monument Wednesday night, according to a National Parks Service press release.
According to the NPS release, while closing WSNM, park rangers discovered an unattended vehicle in the Alkali Flat Trail parking lot.
After searching the immediate area, park rangers expanded their search to the Alkali Flat Trail where they discovered an unresponsive man about a half mile from the trailhead between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., the release states.
New Mexico State Police responded to WSNM then confirmed the man was dead upon their arrival.
According to the release, NPS will be coordinating with NMSP to investigate the incident. Currently no further information is being released at this time due to the ongoing investigation.
WSNM and Alkali Flat Trail remains open at this time, according to the release.
WSNM Superintendent Marie Frias Sauter said rangers were closing WSNM and doing their normal sweep of the park.
“Any car park in an area needs to have a reason for being there,” Sauter said. “For example, our back-country campers, they need to have a permit on their dash and back in our back-country camping trails which they have their water and camping gear.”
She said the man’s car was still parked at Alkali Flat Trail.
“Our ranger who was on duty did a hasty search,” Sauter said. “They did a really quick check then decided he couldn’t see anyone and went further to get some staff. At that point is when they discovered the hiker.”
In 2015, two French Nationals died while hiking the Alkali Flat Trail in White Sands National Monument. The couple were hiking the trail with their 9-year-old son. Their son survived the incident.
She said she wants people to know Whites Sands is gorgeous, but it can be deadly.
“People have to pay attention,” Sauter said. “They can’t be smitten with it. This is not my opinion of this hiker because I have no idea what he died of. It’s completely still under investigation. We don’t know why he died but it can be a deadly place.”
She said Wednesday’s daytime high temperature reached 97 degrees Fahrenheit.
“We recommend one gallons of water per individual per day and high energy snacks,” Sauter said. “Water is really the best thing. Everyone should carry to big bottles of water. The water bottle is a 20 or 24-ounce bottles of water. For the average person, they need at least that much.”
She said most of the WSNM visitors come from sea level areas.
“Between New Mexico’s heat, the intense sun and higher elevation, most people don’t exist in that environment,” Sauter said. “They may not even know how to. We try to give folks the best information. We try to provide the information on our website and our brochures, so they’re informed before they get here.”
For summer hiking at White Sands, NPS recommends visitors start in the coolest part of the day that’s early morning or early evening. The also recommend that visitors not start a hike when the temperature is at or above 85 degrees F.
According to the NPS website, there is no shade or water along any of the WSNM trails.
NPS also recommends hikers wear a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and lightweight, loose-fitting clothing with long sleeves and long pants to help protect the skin from the sun.
Hikers also need to always have a plan when hiking and inform someone who is not in their hiking party where they are hiking and when they plan to return from their hike.
For more information on safety precautions and active safety alerts within WSNM, go online to their website at nps.gov/whsa/planyourvisit/safety.htm
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