PALM SPRINGS, Calif.- - What started as a celebratory family hike in Palm Springs ended in tragedy when a mother died due to extreme heat.
35-year-old Elsa Leon went on a hike with her husband and son on the morning of August 3 at the Skyline Trail, a notoriously rigorous hike right behind the Palm Springs Art Museum. Josiah Lopez, Leon's nephew, said they were celebrating Elsa's new business opening.
Lopez said the family went out in the morning, less than four hours later, they began to struggle with the trail.
"They realized that the trail was kind of difficult. They were pretty up there already. Not only that, it was getting really really hot," Lopez said.
Lopez said the family was fit and active. They came prepared with plenty of water, pedialyte, and hiking gear, but with the extreme summer heat, they began to feel overheated.
"The sun was reflecting on the rocks and the rocks were about 126-130 degrees," Lopez said.
According to PSMP-SAR, the ambient air temperature on the mountain was 126.4°F when the family was rescued.
Lopez said Leon's husband decided to run down the mountain to get help, but help didn't arrive right away. He said Leon ultimately gave her life to help her son, giving him their remaining water supply.
Palm Springs Mountain Police Search & Rescue was finally able to reach Leon and her son, airlifting them off the mountain.
"She was pretty much fighting for her life trying to stay there with my nephew," Lopez said.
Lopez said Leon and her son were first transported to Desert Regional Medical Center, where her son recovered, however, Leon had to be airlifted to Lake Arrowhead for treatment, where she was pronounced dead Monday morning.
"Her son was like her world everything revolved around him," Lopez said.
The trail has a deadly history. Back in 2009 alone, five deaths occurred on that same skyline trail. There have been at least four more deaths on that trail since then.
Leon's family is hoping her story helps prevent this from happening again.
"For families that love to do the same thing, always make sure to check the conditions," Lopez said.
The family has set-up a GoFundMe page to help cover funeral expenses and to help the father and son get through this devastating time. Click here if you would like to donate.
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