Couple die on dune hike: French Couple Dead Hike

Published: August 7, 2015

Couple die on dune hike: French Couple Dead Hike, A New Mexico deputy who grabbed a dead woman’s camera looking for clues made a life-saving discovery.

She had a 9-year-old boy with her, turning a grim recovery operation into a frantic search Tuesday afternoon at White Sands National Monument, 15 miles southwest of Alamogordo.

A challenging hiking trail in the New Mexico desert where temperatures soared past 100 degrees claimed the lives of two French tourists.

But while Park rangers were too late to save the couple, authorities rescued the dehydrated boy, according to the National Park Service.

The woman’s body was discovered about 1 1/2 miles from the Alkali Flat trail head at 5:15 p.m. Unsure exactly what happened, an Otero County Sheriff’s deputy began looking through her camera and realized she wasn’t alone.

“We were trying to figure out what was going on,” Otero County Sheriff Benny House told the Daily News. “We looked at the camera. Otherwise, he could have been the victim as well.”

Her husband’s body was located about a half hour later, the boy by his side, House said.

The couple was identified as David Steiner, 42, and Ornella Steiner, 51, both of Bourgogne, France.

Their son was transported to an area hospital, where he spent the night. The French consulate was contacted and the boy’s grandmother flew from France and took custody of him Thursday afternoon.

“I think so many of us who have children understand the tragedy,” Park Superintendent Marie Sauter told KVIA. “It has been a completely heartbreaking experience for all of us.”

Based on photo timestamps, the family arrived at the trail around noon.

The boy, speaking through an interpreter, told authorities that his mother fell ill during the hike and turned back toward the car. He continued on with his father, who also eventually collapsed from heat exhaustion.

The boy stayed with his dad, unaware his mother had also been overcome along the trail.


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