A local family is warning everyone about how deadly the heat can be after they said it claimed the life of a loved one.
Lucio Lerma is mourning the loss of his younger brother Ronald Lerma, also known as Ronnie, who was homeless. The 52-year-old died last Saturday in Coachella during the excessive heat warning.
"Hopefully, this will help others to realize the severity of the weather that we experience in the valley," said Lucio. "Our family would hope that this serves as a warning for other families not to take this heat lightly but to take it very seriously."
Lucio said first responders found his brother dead on the sidewalk near Cesar Chavez and Sixth Street and said he likely died of a heatstroke Saturday afternoon. Lucio said his family tried several times to help get his brother off the streets.
"He had been unfortunately struggling with homelessness, and like so many other people living out there in the streets, he had succumbed to extreme weather," said Lucio. "His death probably could have been prevented with more openings of cooling centers."
Riverside County has a cooling center at Coachella's Senior Center where water is available. The City of Coachella also allows people to cool off at the public library.
"Hopefully, Ronnie's death will serve as a warning to the rest of us here in the Coachella Valley not to take the severe weather and the extreme heat lightly. It's very serious. It can be a matter of life and death," said Lucio.
Lerma's family started a GoFundMe page to raise funds for his funeral. The fundraiser page, organized by Ninfa Halay-ay, says, "My family needs assistance laying him to rest. Many of you knew and cared for Ronnie and helped him so much through the years and our family is very appreciative of that."
News Channel 3 reached out to Riverside County and the coroner's office to confirm Lerma's cause of death, and officials said the cause is still pending.
The county did confirm one official heat-related death so far this year which happened back in May.