A Texas man who was on his way to distribute his father’s ashes died of heat stroke in Utah’s Arches National Park

The man was likely disoriented by a combination of heat, dehydration and high altitude, his sisters said.

(Ruth Hendricks Brough via AP) James “Jimmy” Bernard Hendricks is seen in Austin, Texas in March 2022. Hendricks was found dead on August 1, 2023 in Arches National Park near Moab, Utah. Family members say Hendricks apparently died of heat stroke while out distributing his father’s ashes.

A Texas man whose body was found in Utah’s Arches National Park is believed to have died of heat stroke while traveling to distribute his father’s ashes, family members said Tuesday.

James Bernard Hendricks, 66, of Austin, had been hiking in the park and was likely disoriented from a combination of heat, dehydration and high altitude, said sisters Ila Hendricks and Ruth Hendricks Brough.

The victim, who called himself “Jimmy,” stopped in Utah while traveling across the west into the Sierra Nevada mountains, where he planned to spread his father’s ashes on a peak outside of Reno, Nevada, they said the sisters.

Park officials said rangers found his vehicle in a parking lot at the trailhead after Hendricks was reported overdue on the morning of Aug. 1. Hendricks’ body was found later that day during an off-trail search about 4 kilometers from the trailhead, the sisters said.

He’s an experienced hiker, but his water bottle is empty, Brough said.

His sisters said he probably went on a long hike on the morning of July 29 — the last day Hendricks was seen alive — and then perished on a second, shorter hike the same day.

Temperatures in the area topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius) that day. Brough later found out that her brother had been taking medication that can cause dehydration.

“It was just a terrible, devastating blow to everyone,” she said. “He was the quintessential outdoorsman who would go anywhere and do anything. He was so strong.”

Another sibling — brother Ron Hendricks — disappeared in the Lake Tahoe area more than two decades ago, Brough said. The family was informed earlier this year that his remains had been found and identified through DNA testing. James Hendricks organized a memorial service for him, she said.

The National Park Service and the Grand County Sheriff’s Office were investigating the death. An official cause of death has not been determined, but heat and altitude are considered “relevant factors,” Lt. Al Cymbaluk from the Sheriff’s Department.

Located in a high desert north of Moab, Arches National Park is known for its natural sandstone arches.

Much of the United States experienced record-breaking heat this summer. An Oregon woman died Friday while hiking in north Phoenix. Authorities said her death appeared to be heat-related.

Justin Scaccy

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