CAMPBELL (CBS SF) — A couple from Campbell died Wednesday in high heat conditions while hiking near a rock formation called “The Wave” close to the Utah and Arizona border, according to the Kane County Sheriff’s Office in Utah.
The bodies of Ulrich Wahli, 70, and his wife Patricia, 69, were found about 250 yards apart in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness after they walked in heat in excess of 100 degrees, sheriff’s Sgt. Alan Alldredge said.
Some people hiking toward the Wave on Thursday called the sheriff’s office at about 8:45 a.m. to report finding the body of a woman beneath a tree just off the trail, Alldredge said.
Kane County Sheriff Lamont Smith, who also works with the medical examiner’s office, flew over with a deputy by helicopter, attached Patricia Wahli’s body to a sling and flew it back to a dirt road in Kanab, Utah, Alldredge said.
While flying back in the helicopter to pick up sheriff’s personnel, authorities spotted Ulrich Wahli’s body and the sheriff had it flown back as well, Alldredge said.
The pair likely died sometime Wednesday afternoon, when Patricia sat under the tree for shade or fell ill and Ulrich may have suffered from heat exposure while trying to get help, Alldredge said.
The state medical examiner’s office will be examining the bodies to determine the cause of their deaths, Alldredge said.
The couple had obtained permits allowing them to hike the popular Wave sandstone rock formation on Wednesday, Alldredge said.
The hiking passes are very difficult to get, as more than 48,000 people applied for the 7,300 permits available last year, Alldredge said.
Only 20 people a day are permitted to visit the formation, 10 who get their permit months in advance online and 10 chosen by a lottery from among 70 to 100 people who show up each day for a permit good for the following day, Alldredge said.
Ulrich, also known as “Ueli,” was a long-time information technology specialist for IBM in San Jose who held a mathematics degree from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, according to the website infomit.com.
Patricia ran Marconi Designs, an interior design company in Los Gatos that included many commercial and residential clients such as FMC Corporation in San Jose and the Pasadera Country Club in Monterey, according to her website wahlichusa.com.
Rosemarie Luck, 53, the couple’s next-door neighbor on Steinway Avenue in Campbell, said the Wahlis were avid gardeners, Ulrich with cacti and Patricia with fruit trees, at the ranch-style home they lived in for more than 20 years.
“They have a large cactus in their front yard like you’d see in the desert,” Luck said.
Patricia, who invited her into her home, “was just a sweetheart,” Luck said.
“It’s terrible,” Luck said. “It’s so sad.”
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