HOUSTON – A family is grieving after a hike turned into a tragedy in Big Bend National Park.
The park shared a post on Facebook saying Richard Merrill, 54, of Friendswood was found dead near the Marufo Vega Trail on Tuesday.
According to the post, park rangers stopped to investigate a vehicle stopped at the trailhead and found a note that detailed Merrill’s plans and said to notify the park if he hadn’t returned by 2 p.m.
Temperatures in the area had reached 106 degrees with 17% humidity by late afternoon, which could cause a hiker to become dehydrated and experience heat illness even if he or she were trying to keep hydrated, the post said.
Because of the extreme heat, rescuers set out to try and find Merrill. His body was located about a quarter mile from the junction of Strawhouse and Marufo Vega trails, according to the post.
“We are deeply saddened by this loss and would like to extend our sincere condolences to the friends and family of Mr. Merrill,” said Superintendent Bob Krumenaker. “The environment of Big Bend in the summer is, sadly, unforgiving. We urge all hikers to be sure they are prepared for the summer desert conditions so they are able to return home and safely visit Big Bend again. I would also like to extend my thanks to the hard work of the search and rescue team under these extreme conditions, as well as to our Border Patrol partners for their assistance.”
Merrill’s body was recovered Wednesday with the help of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter and crew.
The park issues a reminder for people planning to visit for the Fourth of July holiday to use extreme caution due to the heat. It recommended hikers go out in the very early morning in order to be off the trails by 10 or 11 a.m., when the temperatures reach 95 degrees.