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Boy Survives Desert Hike Thanks to Parents' Sacrifice

The Short of It

When the Steiner family set out for a dream vacation touring and photographing the western United States, they had no idea the trip would end in tragedy. The French parents, Ornella and David, were found dead at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. Their 9-year-old son, Enzo, was found alive but badly sunburned and dehydrated.

The Lowdown

Park rangers first found Ornella on a routine patrol of the area. They looked at her camera and realized two others were on the hiking trip with her. The rescue mission continued for another half hour, when Enzo was found alive next to his father's body. The parents apparently died of heat-related causes, but the autopsy results are still pending.

When Enzo talked with the sheriff, he said that his parents rationed the two 20-ounce water bottles they had with them, and for every drink his parents took, he was given two.

"Perhaps that's why he came out of it alive, because he is smaller and probably drank more water than them," Sheriff Benny House told the Alamogordo Daily News.

Enzo explained that his mother tried to go back to the rental car because it was getting too hot, but he stayed with his dad and kept hiking until his father fell unconscious. Then, he decided to stay by his side.

The Upshot

The family didn't register with the park before going on a mid-day hike, which isn't recommended in the hot region. Temperatures had been reportedly between 100 and 101 degrees Fahrenheit that day. National Parks spokesman Patrick O'Driscoll told the Alamogordo Daily News that it's recommended not to start hikes when the temperature is above 85 degrees and that each person should carry at least one gallon of water. Sheriff House said warning signs are posted in several languages, including French, at the trailhead.

Enzo and his grandmother traveled back to France this past weekend after the boy was treated by medical professionals at a hospital in Albuquerque.

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