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French couple die in US desert, nine-year-old son rescued

L'Union de Reims | David and Ornella Steiner, who died while hiking in the New Mexico desert on Tuesday August 4, 2015

A French couple died while hiking in the New Mexico desert, but authorities rescued their nine-year-old son after finding photographs of him on his dead mother's camera, US officials said Friday.


The boy’s parents collapsed and died in soaring temperatures while trekking on a family holiday in the USA.

The young boy was rescued by park rangers and taken to a local hospital to be treated for dehydration.

David Steiner, 42, and Ornella Steiner, 51, both from the small town of Bourgogne near Reims, had been hiking in the White Sands National Monument on Tuesday afternoon when they apparently died from heat exhaustion, Otero County Sheriff's Detective David Hunter said.

Otero County Sheriff Benny House said: "I don’t think they were prepared for the heat. I think they just thought it was a trail and they would walk it."

Park rangers found the mother first while on a routine patrol. They checked her camera and saw that she had been with two other people, the detective said. US Authorities followed her tracks and found the body of the father, with the son nearby.

House said temperatures had reached between 100 and 101 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius).

National Parks spokesman Patrick O'Driscoll told the newspaper there was no shade or water along any of the trails in the dune-filled White Sands National Monument.

The New York Daily News said authorities had contacted the French consulate and the boy's grandmother had flown from France on Thursday.

House said the boy had told authorities that his mother had headed back toward the car after becoming ill on the hike, but that he had carried on with his father.

Ornella Steiner had worked for about 20 years for the mayor's office in Reims.

"She was a very involved person, very vibrant, active and full of life," said deputy mayor Kim Duntze, who worked with her.

Duntze added that the US holiday, “was the trip of their dreams."

David Steiner was a business manager at a communications agency.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)


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