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Man found dead in Death Valley after running out of gas was retired Marine captain

Retired Marine Captain David Wayne Kelleher, image of Death Valley near where his body was found. Credits: Facebook, Google Maps.

Update: The man who tourists found dead near a road in Death Valley National Park has been identified as Marine by his family.

David Wayne Kelleher, who served in the US Marines for 22 years, originally enlisting but later earning a commission as an officer.

According to a Facebook post commemorating his life, he left the service as a Captain and his last duty station was Japan.


Maddie Capron

The Charlotte Observer

Tourists stumbled upon a man’s body in Death Valley National Park, officials said.

The section of Death Valley where Kelleher’s body was found. Credit: Google Maps.

David Kelleher was recently visiting Death Valley when he ran out of gas. He started walking from Zabriskie Point toward Furnace Creek and left a note in his car that said “out of gas,” a June 15 news release said.

Park rangers noticed his car was left in a parking lot on June 11 and remembered seeing it three days earlier.

The car was registered to Kelleher, a 67-year-old from Huntington Beach, officials said. Kelleher had not been reported missing.

A search began in the national park in 123-degree heat, park rangers said, but the search was limited because of the heat.

“Park rangers say in extreme heat, people should wait at a broken vehicle, rather than attempting to walk for assistance,” officials said. “Kelleher’s vehicle was parked at one of the park’s most popular viewpoints.”

Tourists stumbled upon Kelleher’s body Tuesday, June 14, along a trail, officials said. His body was about 2 1/2 miles from his car, and about 30 feet from a highway.

“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.

The death is the second fatality in Death Valley this month.

Missing California man found dead in Death Valley weeks after text to family

On June 1, a California man was found dead in a remote section of the park weeks after he was reported missing. His body was found a quarter-mile from his car.

Death Valley encompasses more than 3 million acres of desert land near the California- Nevada border, according to the National Park Service. It’s the largest national park in the continental U.S., and 93% of the park is considered wilderness.

The park sits below sea level, and it’s consistently smashing heat records.

“Death Valley is famous as the hottest place on earth and driest place in North America,” park rangers said. “The world record highest air temperature of 134°F (57°C) was recorded at Furnace Creek on July 10, 1913.”

Multiple people died in the park in 2021.

In November, a line of footprints led rangers to a 27-year-old hiker’s body in Death Valley, park officials said. The woman separated from her aunt and went off on her own before she was reported missing.

In January 2021, two Death Valley tourists discovered a body in a hot springs source pool, according to the National Park Service.


If people choose to hike or be outdoors in dangerously hot temperatures, officials recommend the following tips:

  • Carry and drink plenty of water and plan to replenish electrolytes
  • Eat twice as much food as normal and have salty foods on hand
  • Carry a first-aid kit
  • Pack essentials only
  • Bring a flashlight with spare batteries to hike during the cool evening
  • Spray yourself with water to cool down
  • Have a hat and sunscreen as protection from the sun
  • Have a whistle or signal for emergency use
  • Wear waterproof clothing

Grand Canyon tourist dies after falling into Colorado River while boating, rangers say

19-year-old found dead in Glacier National Park hours after being separated from friend

Devastating Yellowstone floods will keep part of park closed for rest of the season

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