Outdoors

Four-Hour Death Hike: Jeremy Barlow, 31, of Missouri, Apparently Succumbs to Heat on South Mountain


We're not the only ones still trying to comprehend how a 31-year-old man from Missouri died after hiking for a mere four hours on Sunday morning with a friend at South Mountain Park.

"It's very unusual," says Phoenix Fire Department spokesman Jorge Enriquez. "Maybe they underestimated the hike, coming from another state."

Fire officials say the deceased man -- identified today by police as Jeremy Barlow -- and his friend flew out to the Valley for the weekend to watch Saturday Friday night's match-up between the Sun Devils and Missouri Tigers, then decided to go on a hike in the morning.

They started hiking at about 9 a.m. The pair brought a map, but very little water for a long hike, Enriquez says: One man had two bottles of water, the other man just one bottle.

"They kind of got off the trail ... and got a little bit lost," Enriquez says. "At 11 o'clock, they ran out of water."


The men reportedly couldn't find their way back to the trail, or to civilization. We find that detail troubling and tragic, because South Mountain -- despite being 16,000 acres -- is mostly surrounded by homes. Climbing up the mountain's flanks provides a bird's-eye view.

To these out-of-towners, though, the cactus-filled hills, crags and arroyos apparently seemed without end. As the pair stumbled about, Barlow began to feel sick. His friend called 911 at about 12:40 p.m., reporting that Barlow was "on his knees, crawling" and vomiting.

Phoenix Fire sent out a team of rescuers loaded with gear and a "big wheel," which is like an off-road-capable gurney. But the friend was unable to tell firefighters exactly where to go, leading to more lost time.

"They were kind of going in circles for a little while trying to figure out where he was at," Enriquez says. "By the time the fire department got to him, he was already deceased on the scene."

From our point of view, it wasn't even that hot on Sunday morning. Humid, yes, but the heat was nothing compared to the last few, brutal weeks.

"Maybe he wasn't feeling well from the night before," Enriquez speculates.

We also wonder if the pair wasn't fatigued before the hike -- the football game went into overtime and perhaps they stayed up late. (UPDATE: A commenter points out that this shouldn't have been a factor, since the game was two days before the hike, not the night before.)

Enriquez says that, while "uncommon," it's possible for a dehydrated, but otherwise healthy, person to fall victim to heat stroke in such a short amount of time.

Barlow's friend, by contrast, was "a little dehydrated" but otherwise fine after the hike.

South Mountain's usually well-populated with hikers and mountain bikers -- who, if they're like us, wish they could have bumped into this pair over the weekend and shared some water.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.