A mini-van rented by four German tourists missing since July has been found in a remote section of Death Valley National Park, prompting an air and ground search.
The Germans--a man, woman and two children--did not return from a vacation in California and Las Vegas. They had not been seen since signing a visitor register at the Warm Springs area at the southern end of the park.
The dark green minivan, which was rented at Los Angeles International Airport, was found this week about 10 miles away in Anvil Canyon. The driver apparently tried to follow a rough unpaved road and all four tires were flat and the wheels damaged.
"They apparently drove some two miles on the rims," said Death Valley public information officer Ann Holeso. "It's really off the beaten path."
A beer can and other debris were found near the van. Park officials said all possible explanations for the disappearance are being pursued.
"They might have been affected by the heat and panicked, we just don't know," Holeso said.
European tourists frequently visit Death Valley in the peak of summer when the desert temperatures can exceed 110 degrees. "They don't understand the intensity of the heat and the harshness of the conditions," Holeso said.
The names of the missing Germans have not been released.