The New Mexico State Police have started an investigation into the cause of death. White Sands National Monument is about 26 km southwest of the town of Alamogordo, in the mountain-ringed Tularosa Basin. It comprises the southern part of a 710 km2 field of white sand dunes that is the largest gypsum dune field on Earth.
Temperatures had reached 36°C and given that the park is at high altitude and has a desert like landscape conditions there can be extremely harsh. There is no water nor any shade, meaning that visitors risk dehydration or exhaustion if they visit unprepared. The precise cause of the Belgian tourist’s death is still the subject of an investigation.
A Spokesman for the White Sands National Monument told journalists that "White Sands is beautiful, but deadly. We don’t know how he (the tourist) died, we aren’t ruling anything out, but this can be a deadly place. The combination of extreme heat, typical for New Mexico, and altitude are exception. Generally people don’t live in these kind of conditions. We try and make them aware of the conditions and advise them to drink a gallon (1 US gallon = 3.785 litres) of water per person, per day”.