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California and the West

Search Ends for 4 Missing German Tourists

Mystery: Officials at Death Valley National Park have found nothing but a beer bottle since abandoned van was discovered 10 days ago.

October 31, 1996|TOM GORMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The search has been called off in Death Valley National Park for four German tourists, three months after they were reported missing and 10 days after their abandoned rental van was discovered in a remote canyon.

Park rangers who scoured the area on land and by air found nothing more than an empty beer bottle about a quarter-mile from where the vehicle was found, park spokeswoman Ann Holeso said Wednesday. It was the same type of beer that was found in the van.

The group--two adults and two children--was touring the Southwest and was last seen in Las Vegas on July 22. Their rental van was due at Los Angeles International Airport July 26.

The vehicle was found in Anvil Spring Canyon, in the southwestern part of the park and about six miles from the nearest good dirt road, Holeso said. Tire tracks indicated that the group drove for about two miles on shredded tires and bent wheels.

The area of gently rolling hills is about 3,000 feet above the desert floor--but temperatures there reached 115 degrees in July, she said.

Holeso said there was no reason to suspect foul play.

Death Valley is a popular summer vacation destination for Germans who seek extreme temperatures and terrain, said Michael Zickerick, the German deputy counsel general in San Francisco.

Holeso said that despite the area's inhospitality, it is rare for people to become lost--and even rarer for tourists to die of exposure--because most heed warnings to stay on main highways.

"If they're still out there, it can be presumed that they are deceased," she said. "But we simply have found no signs of them."

The four were identified as Cornelia Meyer, 28, her 4-year-old son, Max, Egbert Rimkus, 33, and his son, Georg Weber, 10. They were reported missing by their families in Dresden.

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