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Disoriented in searing heat, hiker at barren Arizona rock formation took fatal wrong turn

A hiker walks on a rock formation known as The Wave in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona in 2013. A 49-year-old Belgium man has died in an apparent heat-related death while hiking a popular spot near the Utah-Arizona border called “The Wave.”
A hiker walks on a rock formation known as The Wave in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona in 2013. A 49-year-old Belgium man has died in an apparent heat-related death while hiking a popular spot near the Utah-Arizona border called “The Wave.” The Associated Press file

A six-mile hike to The Wave rock formation on the Utah-Arizona border turned fatal Monday afternoon when Christophe Pochic, 49, of Belgium, became disoriented in the heat, reported KSL-TV.

Pochic insisted on going the wrong way, so his 16-year-old son hiked to the trailhead alone and called his mother at a nearby hotel for help, according to the station.

Assisted by other hikers, the teen spent hours looking for his father, whose body was found at 9:15 p.m. by federal Bureau of Land Management workers, reported KTVX.

Authorities believe Pochic, who was in good health, died from the heat despite still having water on him when he was found, Kane County Sheriff’s Department officials wrote on Facebook.

Temperatures in the area reached the 90s on Monday, but the slick rock around The Wave can be deadly in the afternoon heat, Chief Deputy Alan Alldredge told The St. George News.

There’s no shade and hikers face both the heat from the sun and heat radiating from the barren rock, he told the publication.

It’s the first death at The Wave, part of the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, since 2013, when an Arizona woman and a California couple died in separate incidents, according to the News.

The National Park Service calls The Wave “a gallery of gruesomely twisted sandstone, resembling deformed pillars, cones, mushrooms and other odd creations.”

Twenty permits are granted each day via lottery for hikers in the geologically sensitive area. The rugged six-mile hike to The Wave is unmarked and has spotty cell phone reception, according to The Associated Press.

As summer temperatures rise, so does the chance of heat-related illnesses for you, your kids and pets. Here's how to enjoy the hot weather safely.

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