Record Heat Wave Causes Hiker’s Death

Visitors to Malibu’s shore take shelter from the scorching sun under colorful beach umbrellas.

With life-threatening temperatures scorching the area Labor Day Weekend, Malibu beaches were “the most packed it’s been all summer,” according to a spokesperson at the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station. The record-breaking heat—an all-time Los Angeles County high of 121 degrees was set in Woodland Hills—was said to be a factor in the death of a hiker Saturday, prompting the closure of trails throughout the Santa Monica Mountains.

“The heat was the factor over the weekend,” emphasized Malibu Search and Rescue (MSAR) team leader David Katz, who reported, “We had three rescues on Saturday. Two occurred before 11 a.m.” One male adult in Malibu Creek State Park was suffering from heat exhaustion. Then MSAR was called to another incident on a trail near Zuma Ridge. A female hiker was suffering from heat illness as well. The fire department was able to get that hiker to safety.

Then, a female hiker on the Piuma Trail connected to Malibu Creek State Park succumbed to heat-related causes. She started hiking at 8 a.m. Around 12:30 p.m., in temperatures hovering near the 120 mark, she reportedly began feeling ill. At 1:30, she suffered a seizure. MSAR and other first responders were called in. An LA County Fire helicopter lowered a paramedic to the scene to perform life-saving intervention on the hiker, who unfortunately did not survive. 

After the three Saturday morning incidents, which included the fatality and the record-breaking heat, the National and State Park services along with the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) closed hiking trails in the Santa Monica Mountains until Monday evening at 5 p.m.  With trails closed Sunday, Katz reported, “It was relatively quiet without any heat-related hiker incidents.”  But by Monday evening, after trails reopened, MSAR received another hiker-in-distress call at 6:45 p.m. in Malibu Creek State Park. Over the holiday weekend, MSAR also assisted in carrying out a 22-year-old female who was knocked out by a wave near Paradise Cove.

The beach crowds were reported at nearly a half million over the week period from Aug. 31 to Sept. 7. Los Angeles County Lifeguards reported 210 ocean rescues, 252 medical responses, 131 emergency vehicle responses and 10,800 preventative actions or warnings to beach goers.

Just getting to the beach was tough on Saturday due to a fatal motorcycle accident on Pacific Coast Highway near El Matador Beach. PCH was closed in both directions for hours, causing massive backups on the highway and nearby canyon accesses.

Although the thermometer hit 100 degrees at Zuma Beach, according to the LASD, inland residents seeking cooler temperatures still flocked to the coast. That may account for the record breaking pace once again this year for MSAR. The all-volunteer group has made 126 calls so far this year. In comparison, that’s 20 calls ahead of last year at this time and that’s with having zero calls during lockdown in April and only seven calls in May. “We’re running on average 23 calls a month in June, July and August,” Katz said. The rescue team had responded to eight calls already in September, as of Tuesday, Sept. 8.