Death Valley national Park, February 11, 2021 – Two accidental deaths in the Death Valley in the past several weeks remind us all that our National Parks although beautiful and full of mystery, are wild and unpredictable. 2021 is supposed to be a year to heal, a time for the world to take back its freedoms and to fight together to bring harmony to our world. Yet for two well intentioned explorers 2021 ended early with their accidental death in Death Valley.
Fatality in Deimos Canyon
DEATH VALLEY, CA – A canyoneer died in an accident in Death Valley National Park on Saturday, January 30.
Justin Ibershoff (38) of Los Angeles, was descending a technical route down Deimos Canyon with six friends. The group was very experienced, and most members of the party had descended this canyon several times before. The incident occurred while Mr. Ibershoff was descending a steep, rocky slope to the top of the third rappel anchor. He apparently stepped on a rock that moved, triggering a rockslide that swept him past two companions and over the edge of the 95-foot-tall dry fall.
The group used an emergency locator beacon to call for assistance. The group’s ability to send more detailed information via texts through the emergency beacon aided rescuers. After assessing Mr. Ibershoff’s condition, the group continued down the canyon due to continuing active rock fall.
Inyo County search-and-rescue (SAR) and Death Valley park rangers were assisted by helicopters from California Highway Patrol (CHP) and Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake. Crew from the Navy’s VX-31 helicopter were able to reach Mr. Ibershoff a few hours after the accident and establish that he had passed away. At that point, the incident response transitioned into a body recovery.
Inyo County SAR team members and CHP’s H-82 helicopter from Apple Valley recovered Mr. Ibershoff’s body the next day.
Conditions in that area of the canyon remain unstable and canyoneers are advised to avoid the upper section of Deimos Canyon.
Saline Valley Warm Springs
Donald Vanneman III was a 63-year-old resident of San Francisco actually passed at the end of 2020 at Saline Valley Warm Springs. Inyo County Sheriff’s Office and the National Park Service report an accidental death of a man at Saline Valley Warm Springs on December 20, 2020. Donald Vanneman III was a 63-year-old resident of San Francisco.
The volunteer campground host noticed Mr. Vanneman’s vehicle, but was unable to find him early on December 20. Later that day, two park visitors discovered his body in the Palm Springs source pool.
National Park Service regulations prohibit entry directly into the source pool at Palm Springs. Bathing is normally allowed in the man-made soaking tubs, however those are currently drained and closed due to COVID restrictions.