William Smith Oswego Illinois man dies while hiking Grand Canyon; investigation opened as the death is second in less than a week.
William Smith, 60, of Oswego, was hiking out of the Arizona area canyon Tuesday after finishing a single-day trek to Ooh Ahh Point, roughly one mile down the South Kaibab Trailhead, when he collapsed according to the Grand Canyon National Park officials.
Smith, who was hiking with at least one other person, received CPR from bystanders before National Park Service paramedics responded roughly a half-mile below the trailhead. Additional attempts to revive Smith were unsuccessful.
An investigation into the fatality is being conducted by park officials and the Coconino County medical examiner, NPS officials said in a statement Wednesday.
Tuesday’s temperature in the canyon was roughly 85 degrees.
Hikers cautioned to exercise precaution
Not immediately clear is to what degree weather conditions or trail challenges led to the Illinois man’s death along with Smith’s general overall health and fitness.
‘So it was warm, but we were not in an excessive heat warning like we had in the past couple weeks,’ Grand Canyon National Park spokeswoman Joelle Baird told the nypost.
‘It is a challenging trail,’ Baird added, noting the steep, rugged terrain along the trailhead having an elevation of more than 7,200 feet.
‘The South Kaibab Trail offers wonderful views all along the trail making it very easy to lose track of how far down you have hiked,’ a park website reads. ‘Additionally, the steepness of the trail is very misleading on the way down.’
Tuesday’s high was within the norm for mid-June along the South Rim, but temperatures rise slightly ‘as you go into the canyon,’ Baird said.
Smith’s death marked the second fatality at the Grand Canyon since Sunday, when Michelle Meder, 53, of Hudson, Ohio, was pronounced dead from suspected heat-related illness as temperatures hit 115 degrees, tying a previous record set for that day.
Meder was on a backpacking trip with friends when she became disoriented Saturday and later fell unconscious. Responding park rangers found her dead Sunday afternoon.
Hikers taking on challenges more than they are ready for?
On average, about 15 to 20 people die every year in Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park in incidents ranging from medical emergencies to falls and suicides according to Baird.
Nine fatalities have been tallied thus far in 2021, Baird said.
‘Our big message and push is to educate hikers about knowing their own physical abilities and not trying to do anything that they haven’t done before, especially when our search and rescue personnel are stretched thin,’ Baird told the nypost. ‘We want people to plan ahead and to be realistic about their limits.’
National Park officials are warning recreators of the extreme heat – and related dangers – that can sneak up on unsuspecting visitors.