CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — A Texas man and his adult son had run out of water and died from heat exposure while hiking in Carlsbad Caverns National Park in southern New Mexico in June, according to autopsy findings.
The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator listed the deaths of 57-year-old Robert Stuart Pluta and his 21-year-old son Robert Jr. as accidental, bringing an end to an investigation by authorities, the Carlsbad Current-Argus reported (http://bit.ly/2y3TbpO ) on Tuesday.
The bodies of the Corpus Christi men were found on a trail through the rugged terrain about a half mile apart on a day when temperatures soared above 100 (38 degrees Celsius). Both men were avid and experienced hikers.
The autopsy did not find any injuries on the bodies and no naturally-occurring water sources in the area could have provided relief, medical investigator Veena Singh said in the report. The hydration packs that both men carried were empty when the bodies were found.
The report stated that prolonged exposure to a hot environment can cause body temperatures to rise to dangerous levels that could result in weakness, dizziness, trouble breathing and an irregular heartbeat. Prolonged exposure can cause unconsciousness and death, which becomes more likely with strenuous exercise and dehydration.
A search began for the hikers after Pluta's wife notified State Police that she had been unable to contact her husband or son for days. Park Service staff later located the men's vehicle on a trailhead northwest of Carlsbad Caverns. One body was found the night the search started and the second was discovered the next morning.
State Police Sgt. Elizabeth Armijo said the investigation was led by Park Service personnel as other agencies provided assistance.
Information from: Carlsbad Current-Argus, http://www.currentargus.com/