At least four deaths blamed on sweltering heat in the West

The extraordinary heat wave gripping the western United States has so far been blamed for at least four deaths, authorities said Wednesday.

The bodies of Robert Stuart Pluta, 57, and his son Bobby, 21, of Corpus Christi, Texas, were discovered Monday and Tuesday respectively, in Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico, where daily high temperatures have topped 100 degrees for almost a week, New Mexico State Police said Wednesday.

The Plutas, both of whom were experienced hikers, had been on a hiking trip since Wednesday of last week but hadn't been heard from since they checked into their hotel, NBC station KRIS of Corpus Christi reported. A parkwide search was launched on Monday.

High temperatures in the park have been above 100 degrees for almost a week since last Thursday, and police said Wednesday that the heat was a likely factor in the mens' deaths. The park confirmed the men's deaths Wednesday.

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"It was a father-son bonding trip on Father's Day weekend," the family's pastor, Mark Behrendt of Galilean Lutheran Church in Corpus Christi, told KRIS. "This was something that they had looked forward to, they'd been trying to plan on and off, and finally, it happened."

Photos: Dangerous Heat Wave Scorches Southwestern U.S.

Late Wednesday afternoon, officials confirmed the heat-related deaths of two people in Santa Clara County, California. The victims died Monday in San Jose and were identified only as a 72-year-old man and an 87-year-old woman, said Marina Hinestrosa, a spokeswoman for the county in Northern California.

The National Weather Service warned that the heat smothering the West this week carried "major potential for heat-related illness and even death." High temperatures reached 120 degrees in Bullhead City, Arizona; 118 in Glendale, Arizona; 116 in Phoenix, Tempe and Scottsdale, Arizona; and 111 in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

Triple-digit temperatures again also spanned the length of California, where the southeastern town of Blythe hit 119 degrees on Wednesday. Bakersfield hit 109, while Fresno and Stockton reached 106.

The National Weather Service forecast only a "subtle" improvement in the days ahead. "Expect no significant cooling through Sunday," the weather service's Phoenix office said Wednesday afternoon.

RELATED: The 5 deadliest weather events of all time

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The 5 deadliest weather events of all time
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The 5 deadliest weather events of all time

Deadliest hailstorm: Moradabad, India, on April 30, 1888, which killed 246 people.

Reportedly there were hailstones the size of "goose eggs and oranges and cricket balls." The WMO report cites an eyewitness who said that roofs collapsed and doors and windows were smashed by the ice. 

"Men caught in the open and without shelter were simply pounded to death by the hail. Fourteen bodies were found in the race-course. More than one marriage party were caught by the storm near the banks of the river, and were annihilated. The police report that 1,600 head of cattle, sheep, and goats were killed,” wrote John Eliot, the first director-general of the India Meteorological Department, according to the WMO report.

(Photo by Shyam Sharma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Deadliest lightning strike: Manical Tribal Trust Lands in Zimbabwe on December 23, 1975, which killed 21 people.

The report says that nearly 90% of sub-Saharan buildings are not lightning safe, often made of mud-brick with thatch or sheet metal roofs. 

(REUTERS/Gene Blevins)

Deadliest indirect lightning strike: Dronka, Egypt on November 2, 1994, when 469 people were killed by a lightning-caused oil fire.

In 1994, a flash of lightning caused a fire that ignited three oil tanks, each holding about 5,000 tons of aircraft or diesel fuel. The railway line holding the tanks collapsed in a flood and floodwaters carried the blazing fuel into Dronka. 

(STR New / Reuters)

Deadliest tornado: Manikganj district, Bangladesh on April 26, 1989, which killed 1,300 people.

The 1989 tornado had a track about a mile wide and destroyed two towns, injuring over 12,000 and leaving about 80,000 people homeless. 

(Photo by David L. Nelson/AFP/Getty Images)

Deadliest tornado: Manikganj district, Bangladesh on April 26, 1989, which killed 1,300 people.

The storm sometimes known as the "Great Bhola Cyclone" caused between 300,000 and 500,000 deaths when the storm surge overwhelmed island and tidal flats along the Bay of Bengal. 

(Photo by Express Newspapers/Getty Images)

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