Mother remembers her son and calls for Arizona hikers’ safety after his death
Quincy Egwu woke up early to hike White Tank Mountain Regional Park on August 13, 2020 – one of the hottest days in the Phoenix area last year.
Egwu, 29, was no stranger to spending time outdoors in Arizona, where he was born and raised. He left at 6 a.m. with a trail mix, water and sports drinks to hike and train for an upcoming trip to the Grand Canyon, his family said.
“He was getting his body ready to go,” his mother, Delrose Egwu, told The Arizona Republic.
But since he didn’t return home later that day, his family traveled to the White Tank Mountains to find him. The next day, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office issued a disappearance notice for Quincy.
The sheriff’s office said Quincy hiked alone near the Mesquite Canyon trailhead and although he is an experienced hiker he may not have been prepared for prolonged exposure to the heat.
“To my knowledge, he’s never really hiked to this degree in the summer,” Delrose said. “I think he underestimated the time.”
Then, a day after he left on a hike to the White Tanks, officials found Quincy’s body near his car in a wash area near the Mesquite Canyon Trail, according to the sheriff’s office and Delrose.
“He was 200 to 300 feet from his car. He was so close,” Delrose said, adding he collapsed in the wash area. The medical examiner classified Quincy’s death as accidental and caused by exposure to environmental heat.
Delrose said she wanted to encourage others to adequately prepare for being outdoors as temperatures rise as the hottest months of the year approach.
The National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat warning for at least a week starting Saturday in central and northwestern Arizona, where temperatures are expected to reach 118 degrees and at least 115 degrees for at least six days right now.
Heat rescues increased in Maricopa County in 2020
Last year’s summer and fall seasons were the hottest on record in Phoenix, according to National Weather Service officials, who said this year was in sync with 2020.
Along with an increase in excessive heat warnings issued by the National Weather Service last year, Phoenix firefighters and Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office officials also saw more hiker rescues in 2020, mostly due to injury or heat.
From 2019 to 2020, the number of rescues and searches increased slightly in Maricopa County, said Kyle Clancy, deputy of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. Last year, the sheriff’s office conducted about 60 rescues and nearly 30 searches, compared to 50 rescues and 25 searches the year before.
So far in 2021, the sheriff’s office has carried out about 25 rescues and 20 searches, according to Clancy.
Searches generally decline with warmer temperatures, but rescues tend to increase during the summer season, Clancy added. Clancy said rescues from the sheriff’s office are mainly due to heat-related illnesses and sometimes injuries.
Captain Todd Keller, spokesperson for the Phoenix Fire Department, said their rescue teams carried out several mountain rescues throughout the past summer.
“There were days when (we) would climb the mountain two to three times a day. It was a very busy summer for us,” he said.
Over the Labor Day weekend, when the Weather Service issued one of its 12 48-day heat warnings in 2020, Phoenix firefighters said they had rescued an unusually high number of hikers due to heat-related illnesses.
Keller said it’s important to hydrate before, during, and after a hike, to let someone know you’re hiking, and to limit the hike to earlier in the morning or later in the evening. He said hikers should also bring a fully charged cell phone in case something happens.
“Just know your limits,” Keller said. “We want you to make it a fun experience. We always say, “It will be a round trip ticket. “… If you only get halfway, turn around, come back and try to complete the last half for next time.”
“Every day I think about him:” The family remembers Quincy, a leader in a church in Glendale
After Quincy’s death in August, his family hosted a funeral service at their church and created a website in honor of his life. The site displays photo albums and a description of who he was – a loving husband, father of a baby, a brother, a friend and someone who made an impact on everyone he met.
“It’s been tough – every day I think about him,” Delrose said.
Quincy was a leader of the Glendale Seventh-day Adventist Church. His group of young adults distributed food to the homeless and he arranged for the nonprofit Samaritan’s Feet to provide shoes and toys for children who have just moved to the United States, Delrose said. . He also went abroad on a missionary trip.
“He was a very caring person. He cared about others. He himself was very humble, he was a Christian, he was number one. He loved his family very much,” said Delrose.
Delrose said Quincy wanted to “follow in the footsteps of what Jesus did” and would help people pay the rent, with legal aid, food or transportation out of kindness. The website also said that Quincy selflessly donates his time and finances to others.
“He cared about others a lot,” his mother said. “He was an exceptional friend, an exceptional son, an exceptional husband, a dad.”
During his trip to the White Tanks, Quincy researched training routes for the young adults at his church to prepare for their next trip to the Grand Canyon.
Delrose said she thought if anyone had gone with her son for a hike they might have suggested stopping and resting while hiking in warm weather. She said from what she saw she believes her son did not bring a hat with him and was not hydrated before the hike.
“If you know you are going for such a hike, you need to make sure you hydrate yourself before, two to three days before,” she said. “He was losing heat, more than he was taking.”
She also said that instead of just telling one person where you are going, hikers should tell multiple people in case someone forgets.
Heat awareness and safety tips include:
- Avoid outdoor activities during the hottest part of the day
- Always bring plenty of water, food, and a light source other than your cell phone
- Hydrate with water a few days before, during and after your hike
- Don’t underestimate the daytime temperatures and know your abilities and limitations when going out
- Tell someone else where you are going, which route you are taking and when you will be back
- Stay with your vehicle if you get stuck, but if you leave your vehicle, leave a note or indicate which direction you went
- If you are traveling in a group, turn off all cell phones except one to save phone battery
- Bring your cell phone, but be aware that there are areas that do not have service
- Bring brightly colored clothing like orange or safety green so you can be easily seen in the event of a rescue
Phoenix Fire Captain Jake Van Hook discusses heat emergencies on valley trails
Captain Jake Van Hook of the Phoenix Fire Department discusses heat emergencies and how to avoid them at Piestewa Peak on March 19, 2019.
Brieanna J. Frank, The Republic | azcentral.com
More tips for staying safe while spending time outdoors in hot weather can be found on the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation website.