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Desert Tragedy: Henderson prom queen's life cut short

Reported by: Kelsey Thomas
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Updated: 8/01 11:29 pm

LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3 -- The National Park Service is closing a popular hiking trail near Lake Mead following the recent death of a teenager.

Coronado High School graduate Kiilani Giron died from complications due to heat exhaustion, just two weeks after she collapsed near the end of a hike in Gold Strike Canyon, near Hoover Dam.

The hike offers a combination of extremes with its breathtaking views, dangerous drops, and triple-digit temperatures in the summer. The hike to Lake Mead is downhill, while the return hike is more strenuous.

A record 21 people have been rescued this year at the site. In 2013, just nine hikers needed rescuing during the entire year.

Tuesday, July 8, started out like a typical day for any teenager. Giron texted her friend Alek Dales, asking if he wanted to do something. Going on a hike was their decision. Taking just one water bottle for the two of them on the 103-degree day, the pair set out on their trek. Toward the end, as they hiked out of the canyon, things got serious.

“She actually starts to pick up the pace near the end of the hike,” Dales recalls. “I think, oh she just wants to get back to the car, right? We get maybe a quarter-mile away from the trail head, and she just collapses.”

Going to the aid of his fallen friend, Dales tried to carry Giron to safety, but was overcome by the scorching temperatures himself.

“I go over and try to pick her up and I put her arm around me. Like maybe try to walk her there,” Dales says. “But she’s not walking her feet at all, she’s dragging them.

“I just pick her up in my arms and go maybe 100, 200 feet, and I’m exhausted too and that was the most I could do,” he says. “I had to put her down. She’s breathing, but it’s sporadic and it’s not really methodical and she’s just kind of twitches a lot.”

Dales called 911 after he realized he couldn’t do anything to get Giron to safety, and waited for what felt like eternity for responders to arrive. “I’m just sitting there, thinking if they don’t get here, it’s just going to get worse,” Dales says. “I’m thinking, she might die out here.”

Giron was airlifted to Sunrise Hospital, where she died two weeks later. She had trekked Gold Strike Canyon before. It was her favorite hike.

Despite the dangers and warning signs about the effects the heat can have on hikers, they continued to flock to the trail.

Christie Vanover of the National Park Service says the sign about the heat dangers was posted in hopes of discouraging people from hiking when temperatures are high: “As you see from the vehicles parked here today, not everyone seems to be getting the message,” Vanover says.

This, coupled with the increased rescues this year, has prompted the National Park Service to shut down the trail until the end of August.

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