SALT LAKE CITY – The brutal summer heat proved too much for another hiker visiting The Wave, a flowing sandstone rock formation near the Utah-Arizona border that claimed the lives of a California couple earlier this month.
The deaths have prompted federal officials to consider seeking an outside investigation of the dangers posed to hikers who make the trek.
Elisabeth Ann Bervel, 27, of Mesa, Ariz., died on Monday of cardiac arrest when a medical helicopter arrived too late to save her, authorities said.
Bervel was celebrating her fifth wedding anniversary with her husband Anthony when they lost their way on a 3-mile, unmarked route back to a trailhead, forcing them to spend extra hours under blazing sun in 90-degree temperatures and humidity. Officials said her legs gave out while hiking in soft sand, and her husband kept going to find a cellphone signal to call for help. He appeared to be in no danger from the heat or exertion, authorities said.
The Wave is a richly colored geological upheaval, its fiery swirls emblazoned on postcards, posters, maps and computer screensavers.
The latest death led to further questions about the lottery system that makes it hard to win one of only 20 permits issued a day for the hike that starts in Utah before reaching The Wave in Arizona. More than 48,000 people applied last year for 7,300 available hiking permits, officials said. For many, it’s a lifetime opportunity that can encourage risk-taking during the hottest time of the year.
On July 3, Ulrich and Patricia Wahli of Campbell, Calif., were found dead in 106-degree heat along the barely discernible trail to The Wave.
Officials at the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument had said they planned to review their policies and procedures for visitors after the Wahlis died. Now, they plan to speed up the review.
“We’re considering everything at this point,” including a marked trail, Kevin Wright, monument manager, said.