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Combat veteran dies, girlfriend in hospital after being missing in Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park (Ken Lund/Flickr)

A Tucson man has died and his girlfriend is in the hospital after they became stranded for several days while on a camping trip in Death Valley National Park, authorities said.

Alexander Lofgren, 32, a military veteran who served in the war in Afghanistan and was a military adviser in the Tucson office of U.S. Rep Raúl Grijalva, died in the park, the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office said Friday, April 9.

Lofgren’s girlfriend Emily Henkel, 27, a marketing coordinator for the Arizona Army National Guard, was found alive and airlifted from a remote area to a hospital. Her condition was not immediately available.

The couple was declared missing Tuesday, April 6, after they failed to return as scheduled on Sunday, April 4, from a camping trip in challenging terrain in the national park named for its deadly summer heat and perilous landscapes.

California authorities dispatched aircraft that located the couple midday Thursday, April 8, but could not determine their condition. An initial rescue attempt failed and a second was launched that evening. The couple was spotted by a search aircraft on a “very steep ledge” in a “very remote area” of the park, the sheriff said.

The pair had three days worth of water left when they became stranded in a remote area with two flat tires, according to a note they left on their vehicle, the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office said.

After two days of searching hotels and backcountry campsites, authorities located their 2018 white Subaru Forester around noon April 8. The short note they left on their dashboard — “Two flat tires, headed to Mormon Point, have three days’ worth of water” — helped searchers zero in on the pair, it said.

Rescuers initially attempted a “hoist operation” to reach the couple, but two team members who rappelled down were not able to reach them “due to the extreme location,” the sheriff said.

A technical team from Inyo Search and Rescue was expected to descend into the canyon in a second attempt late Thursday.

The sheriff’s office said Lofgren and Henkel were experienced campers. Lofgren is known for camping in remote areas at undesignated campgrounds and is believed to have had at least a day’s worth of food with him, the sheriff said.

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