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Authorities: Grandfather, Grandson Died From Heat Exposure On Hiking Trail

A Tucson man and his 12-year-old grandson were found dead several miles apart along a hiking trail in central Arizona, and the boy likely died while trying to get help, authorities said.

The bodies of Thomas Gillespie, 63, a science teacher at Tucson Unified School District, and Robert Miller of Prescott Valley were found late Wednesday in mountains near Gila Bend, about 50 miles southwest of Phoenix, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said.


Officials are still working to determine a cause of death, however it appeared Gillespie died of heat exposure or had a medical emergency, sheriff’s spokesperson Chris Hegstrom said.

The boy “probably succumbed to the elements,” Hegstrom said. “It’s a very tragic accident.”

The high temperature Wednesday in Gila Bend was 103 degrees, the Arizona Daily Star reported.

Searchers found Gillespie’s body about 5 miles from the trailhead where their vehicle was parked and the boy’s body was found about 1.5 miles from the trailhead, Hegstrom said.

The boy had keys to the vehicle, but it wasn’t known whether the duo had taken food and water with them, Hegstrom said. Neither was found with their bodies, and they didn’t have a cell phone on them, he said.

The search for the two missing hikers began late Wednesday afternoon when a woman called authorities to report she had not heard from her father or son since Tuesday morning.

A hotel manager where the two were staying said the pair left Tuesday morning to go hike the Mormon Battalion Trail, Hegstrom said. Officials believe the two were going to take pictures of the path between Gila Bend and Maricopa.

The hiking trail was originally used as a route taken by a group of volunteers recruited by the U.S. Army to go to California in 1846 during the war with Mexico.

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