Couple die on desert trek but save son's life through selfless act

French couple gave son, 9, two sips of water for every sip they took

Couple Who Died While Hiking Likely Saved Son's Life Through Selfless Act
A French couple who died during an afternoon hike across the searing New Mexico desert probably saved their nine-year-old son by giving him two sips of water for each one they took before their supply ran out, a sheriff has said.

The boy was dehydrated but in remarkably good shape when he was found alongside his dead father on a trail in the White Sands National Monument, the Otero County Sheriff Benny House said.

The pair were found on Tuesday about half an hour after park rangers found the mother dead. "That may be why he fared so well, is he was a lot smaller and probably had twice as much water," House said. "He was well hydrated, compared to the other two."

House identified the couple as David Steiner, 42, and his wife, Ornella Steiner, 51. The boy's name wasn't released. They were from Bourgogne, near the city of Reims, reports The Guardian.

Couple set out on hike in 100 degree heat

The couple appeared to have died of heat-related causes, House said. An autopsy to determine the official cause of death was pending, the state medical investigator's office said.

The family had two 20-ounce (591mL) water bottles when they set out on the hike along the national monument's Alkali Flat trail about 1pm, House said.

The trail is known for crystalline-white sand dunes and ends at the edge of the Alkali Flat, an ancient dry lake bed.

There is no vegetation or shade and the National Park Service warns summertime visitors to hike only in the cool hours and carry at least a gallon (3.8L) of water for each person. The high temperature at the monument on Tuesday was 101F (38.3C), according to the national weather service.