Camper Aide of Rep. Raul Grijalva Dies in Death Valley, Wife Rescued By Helicopter

A 32-year-old Arizona tourist, Alexander Lofgren, has died during a camping expedition in the Death Valley National Park in California. His wife, 27-year-old Emily Henkel, was rescued by helicopter after park officials sighted them in the vast inhospitable valley. Lofgren was an aide to Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., and worked in his district office before his death, Yahoo News reports.

An Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, Lofgren was described as a very experienced camper who often explored “remote areas that are not designated campgrounds.”

The couple was supposed to return home to Tucson on Sunday but was declared missing when they did not make any contact by Tuesday. Officials searched for all tourist attractions and hotels along the route and eventually discovered the white 2018 Subaru of the couple. Inside the abandoned vehicle was a note which read “Two flat tires. Headed to Mormon Point. Have three days’ worth of water.”

According to the Inyo Creek Sheriff’s Office, the note found in the car proved helpful to rescuers in their search efforts. The couple was ultimately found from a helicopter in a very remote area on Thursday, but the crews were unsuccessful in lifting them from the ground because of the dangerous area they were in.

The helicopter returned to the steep ledge near Willow Creek for another rescue effort on Friday at 11:30 am but found Lofgren dead and Henkel airlifted to the Lemoore Naval Air Station where she is being treated. The authorities are investigating the cause of Lofgren’s death and Sheriff Jeff Hollowell has expressed his condolences to his family.

“This has been a tremendously difficult operation in a very unforgiving geographic area of Inyo County, I sincerely hope for healing and recovery for all involved,” Sheriff Jeff Hollowell said.

Rep. Raul Grijalva also expressed sadness at Lofgren’s death, saying he was a cherished part of his family. “Words cannot begin to describe how heartbroken I am over the death of Alex Lofgren,” he said. “Alex will forever be a part of our family, and my heart is with his family, his loving partner Emily, and his colleagues who mourn him today.”

Sheriff Hollowell said Lofgren possibly had jugs of water and food that could carry him for at least one day before he went missing. The Death Valley National Park is located in the Mojave Desert to the east of California, and Willow Creek inside the desert is close to the California-Nevada border. The area remains one of the hottest and driest places on Earth according to government experts.