TRONA • An 11-year-old Las Vegas boy died after his mother's car became stuck in sand for five days on the way to camp in Death Valley.
Carlos Sanchez and his 28-year-old mother left Las Vegas for a one-day camping trip to Death Valley on Saturday, according to a San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department report. National Parks Service Rangers and the San Bernardino and Inyo County Sheriff's Departments began to search for the pair after the Las Vegas Metro Police Department filed a missing persons' report on Wednesday.
Rangers found the Sanchez's car approximately 20 miles east of Trona on the north border of the China Lake Naval Weapons Center on Thursday, according to the sheriff's report. The mother and the family dog were found alive in the car, but Carlos had died of apparent heat exposure, according to a San Bernardino County Coroner's report. The mother was airlifted to the Sunrise Medical Center in Las Vegas for treatment. The mother told deputies that her son died on Wednesday, according to the sheriff's report.
The Sanchez's car got a flat tire on the way to Death Valley, but the mother was able to fix it. However, the car later got stuck in sand after hitting an animal burrow near China Lake Naval Weapon Testing Station, according to a San Bernardino County Coroner's Office report.
The Sanchez's hiked to a tall peak to attempt to get cell service after they got stuck, but could not get a signal, according to the sheriff's report. They then walked back to their car and awaited help. The Sanchez's took 24 16-oz. bottles of water, Pop Tarts and cheese sandwiches for the camping trip. They had no supplies left when they were found, according to the sheriff's report.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff's/Coroner's Office is continuing the investigation. An autopsy is scheduled to be performed to determine Carlos' cause of death next week.
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What to do if you're stuck in the desert
• Stay with your vehicle or otherwise make yourself visible.
• Stay put, unless you have a clear and specific destination.
• Avoid walking during the heat of the day; morning and evening walking is better for conserving your body's moisture.
• Seek shelter from the elements, but try to make yourself visible (like with smoke or a signal fire, or a bright colored tarp).
Source: Bureau of Land Management