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Hiker found dead at White Sands National Park

This March 2014 photo shows contoured patterns in the vast white sand dunes at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. (Associated Press file)

ALAMOGORDO, N.M. – A 27-year-old hiker who went missing while visiting White Sands National Park has been found dead, authorities said Friday.

New Mexico state police and officials at the southern New Mexico park reported that rescue teams discovered the body of Brad Utegaar of Wausau, Wisconsin, earlier this week after a search was initiated over the holiday weekend. A military helicopter and state and federal officers helped with the effort.

Utegaar’s car had been parked at the Alkali Flats Trail for two days. His body was found about 2 miles northeast of the trail.

State Police Officer Ray Wilson said there did not appear to be any foul play and that Utegaar had a backpack and water bottles with him.

Utegaar’s family told authorities in New Mexico that he was on a cross-country trip alone.

Several people have died among the white sand dunes over the years, and park officials on Friday warned again about the dangers of hiking in extreme temperatures as there is no shade or water along any of the trails at the park. It was exactly one year ago that a hiker from northern New Mexico was found dead at the park.

Officials recommended that hikers bring at least 1 gallon of water per person per day and high­ energy snacks along with a hat and sunscreen.