A former Marine Corps officer was found dead in Death Valley National Park after his car ran out of gas, the National Park Service reported Wednesday.
The body was identified as 67-year-old David Kelleher, a Southern California man who left his car to find more gas in the 123-degree heat, according to the NPS. He was discovered two and a half miles from his car by park visitors, 30 feet away from an obscured highway. A note crumpled in his pocket confirmed Kelleher’s mission to get more gas.
Kelleher’s family confirmed his death Wednesday and described him as a “proud veteran” who spent 22 years in the Marine Corps. Kelleher was an officer, earning the rank of “captain” during his tenure.
It’s unclear what day Kelleher died, but an NPS ranger discovered his abandoned car on June 8. A few days later, the ranger returned to the site and saw the car again. After running a check on the car, NPS discovered Kelleher was the owner and had been cited for driving off-road on May 30, officials said.
Kelleher’s was the second body discovered in the park in June after the body of John McCarry, a 69-year-old from Long Beach, California, was discovered June 1. The vehicle of another man, Peter Harootunian, was also abandoned in the park. On May 23, a search and rescue mission was dispatched for Harootunian, who has still not been found.
The valley reached a high temperature of 134 degrees Fahrenheit in 1913 and is considered the hottest place on Earth, according to the park service. The park also reached 130 degrees Fahrenheit in 2021.
Park rangers have advised visitors to remain in their broken-down cars rather than venturing into the desert so they can remain shielded from the elements.