More Details Released in Labor Day Hiking Fatality

The NPS released this map of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area showing trails and areas that are still closed 10 months after the Woolsey Fire. The Labor Day hiking fatality and related rescues took place off trail, in the closed area of the Zuma Canyon Park area of the park.

The Los Angeles County Coroner’s office has released the name of the hiker who died in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) on Labor Day, September 2, as Thousand Oaks resident Jeffrey Sherman, 63, who died of cardiopulmonary arrest, according to the report.

Sherman was an herbalist and the CEO of Thousand Oaks Family Well Being. His office released a statement on his death: “It is with great sadness that we inform you that our good friend and colleague, Jeff Sherman, passed away…doing what he loved to do—hiking.

“The day heated up beyond expectations,” the announcement states. “Jeff’s group ran out of water and they suffered from heat exhaustion while deep in the trails. Emergency calls were made but, unfortunately, Jeff did not survive.”

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Malibu-Lost Hills Station received the 911 call shortly after 2 p.m. on Labor Day. The hikers told the dispatcher that they were suffering from heat exhaustion, had run out of water, and needed medical aid.

A National Park Service (NPS) statement reveals that emergency responders attempted to revive Sherman using CPR, but that he was pronounced dead at 3:40 p.m. and was airlifted out of the canyon by helicopter.

Members of the Malibu Search and Rescue Team were the first responders on the scene. Five additional members of the same hiking group were evacuated by helicopter and treated for heat exhaustion.

“Several other hikers that are a part of the same hiking group also had to be rescued from different locations, the NPS report states. “They were found on four different cliffsides near Newton Canyon and Zuma Edison Road, along an abandoned, rapidly eroding and treacherous road.”

Sherman was part of a group of hikers that left the Backbone Trail and entered an area of the backcountry that has remained closed and off limits since the Woolsey Fire.

The disused access road is not part of the official network of trails and is in an area that sustained severe damage during the Woolsey Fire and remains closed. The terrain in that part of the park is steep and there is little shade in the burn scar area and no water. The weather was hot on the day of the incident and some of the hikers had already hiked for almost eight miles, according to the NPS.

The NPS issued a list of recommendations for hikers that include staying on designated trails, bringing enough water, and hiking early or late during hot weather to avoid the hottest part of the day.

 “Hiking in extreme heat can lead to serious health risks including heat exhaustion, heat stroke, hyponatremia, hyperthermia and death,” NPS spokesperson Ana Cholo cautioned. “If you see signs of a heat-related illness, stop, seek shade and try to cool down. Do not ignore the signs, which include nausea, disorientation, dizziness, and hallucinations.”

Sherman’s death is the second heat-related fatality in the SMMNRA this summer. An earlier death occurred in July, near Circle X Ranch.

Malibu Search and Rescue reports that it has already responded to a record number of calls from hikers in distress this year.


Suzanne Guldimann

Suzanne Guldimann is an author, artist, and musician who lives in Malibu and loves the Santa Monica Mountains. She has worked as a journalist reporting on local news and issues for more than a decade, and is the author of nine books of music for the harp. Suzanne's newest book, "Life in Malibu", explores local history and nature. She can be reached at


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