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State officials urge caution after several hikers die on Arizona trails

TUCSON, Ariz. — The summer has seen a rash of deaths of hikers unprepared
for dangers of the Arizona heat.

A 29-year-old Texas woman vacationing in the Phoenix area died Wednesday while
hiking on the Sunset Trail at Picacho Peak, about 75 miles southeast of the

It came about a week after the deaths of a 63-year-old Tucson man and his
12-year-old grandson, who were found several miles apart along a desert trail
near Gila Bend.

A day before that, a woman from Great Britain died after a mountain hike at
Echo Canyon Park in Phoenix.

And last month, a man visiting the Grand Canyon from Japan died during a hike
in temperatures that soared above 110 degrees.

The deaths are a reminder of the dangers Arizona’s heat poses to both natives
who are accustomed to intense temperatures and visitors who aren’t. They’ve left
families mourning and public safety officials frustrated over what many consider
preventable deaths.

“The lack of common sense is not something we can change in people. Poor
judgment cannot be fixed by first responders,” said Capt. Adam Goldberg of the
Northwest Fire District, which responds to calls just north of Tucson.

Goldberg says the biggest mistake hikers make is ignoring those first few
symptoms instead of resting or seeking help.

“Listen to your body. Don’t succumb to peer pressure,” he said.

Carrie Romero, the Richmond, Texas woman, became disoriented around 2:30 p.m.
on Wednesday. Search crews arrived quickly, but Romero was pronounced dead
around 3 p.m. after being found about half-mile from the trailhead. Pinal County
officials said the death is heat-related. Romero had been hiking for more than 3
hours and appeared to have ample water.

The bodies of Thomas Gillespie, 63, of Tucson, and his grandson, Robert Miller
of Prescott Valley, were discovered on July 8 in mountains near Gila Bend, about
50 miles southwest of Phoenix, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said.

Officials are determining a cause of death, but it appeared Gillespie either
died of exposure or had a medical emergency, sheriff’s spokesman Chris Hegstrom

The boy “probably succumbed to the elements,” Hegstrom said. “It’s a very
tragic accident.”

The high temperature July 8 in Gila Bend was 103 degrees.

Searchers found Gillespie’s body about 5 miles from the trailhead where their
vehicle was parked and the boy’s body about 1.5 miles from the trailhead,
Hegstrom said.

The boy had keys to the vehicle, but it wasn’t known whether the pair had taken
food and water with them, Hegstrom said. None was found with their bodies, and
they didn’t have a cellphone, he said.

In Phoenix, 48-year-old Ravinder Takhar, from the United Kingdom, was hiking
with her husband and son in 106-degree heat.

Takhar needed to sit down and rest after the family reached the summit at Echo
Canyon Park. She told her family to continue hiking down the trail without her
and that she’d meet them later.

She never made it down.