Northern California family found on hiking trail died of extreme heat

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The Northern California family of three found dead on a remote Sierra National Forest hiking trail over the summer died of extreme heat as temperatures soared to 109 degrees, authorities said this week.

Jonathan Gerrish, his wife, Ellen Chung, and their 1-year-old daughter, Aurelia “Miju” Chung-Gerris, died of hyperthermia — which occurs when a person’s body temperature is dangerously high after exposure to hot, humid weather, Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Briese said Thursday.

Their dog, Oski — an 8-year-old Australian shepherd and Akita mix — also died on the trail. Oski’s exact cause of death is unclear, but Briese said evidence indicates the dog was “possibly suffering from heat-related issues.”

“This is an unfortunate and tragic event due to the weather,” Briese said.

Multiple other factors — including murder, lightning strikes, poisoning, illegal drugs and suicide — were investigated and ruled out.

The family set out around 8 a.m. Aug. 15, when temperatures sat around 74 degrees, according to Briese.

John Gerrish and his wife Ellen Chung.

John Gerrish, an experienced hiker, died with his wife, Ellen Chung. Instagram

But by the time they reached the steep uphill portion of the hike known as the Savage Lundy Trail, temperatures reached a scorching 109.

The family’s relatives reported them missing — and authorities found them two days later.

The family and their dog were reported to be found dead in this remote canyon area northeast of the town of Mariposa, Calif.

The family and their dog were reportedly found dead in this remote canyon area northeast of the town of Mariposa, Calif. Craig Kohlruss/The Fresno Bee via AP, File

Gerrish, 45, was an experienced hiker who used an app on his phone to plot a route along the Hite Cove Trail, a loop that runs about 8 miles, hugging the south fork of the Merced River, Briese said.

But shade was minimal on the trail, where many of the trees had been destroyed in a wildfire three years ago.

John Gerrish, Ellen Chung, their 1-year-old daughter Miju

The family set out around 8 a.m. Aug. 15, when temperatures sat around 74 degrees, according to Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Briese. Instagram

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The family had an empty 85-ounce water container with them, investigators found.

Tests of the water in the Merced River indicated it was contaminated with Anatoxin A, a lethal toxin produced by blue-green algae — prompting the Bureau of Land Management to close campgrounds and recreation areas along a 28-mile swath of the river.

But Briese said Thursday there is no indication that the family drank any of the water.

A Mariposa County deputy sheriff stands watch over a remote area northeast of the town of Mariposa, Calif.

Multiple other factors — including murder, lightning strikes, poisoning, illegal drugs and suicide — were investigated and ruled out. Craig Kohlruss/The Fresno Bee via AP

The FBI is “making good progress” in attempting to unlock one of the adults’ cellphones, in an attempt to find “more answers about that day,” Briese said.

Unnamed family members issued a statement following the determination of the family’s cause of death.

“Some questions have been answered, and we will use this information as a way of helping us come to terms with the situation,” the relatives said in the statement, read by Kristie Mitchell, the public information officer for the sheriff’s office. “Our hearts will never forget the beautiful lives of Jonathan, Ellen, Miju, and, of course, Oski. They will remain with us wherever we go.”

A helicopter hovers over a remote area northeast of the town of Mariposa, Calif.

A helicopter hovers over a remote area northeast of the town of Mariposa, Calif. Craig Kohlruss/The Fresno Bee via AP

What to Know About the Gerrish Family Who Mysteriously Died on Hiking Trail in California

John Gerrish, Ellen Chung and their 1-year-old daughter Miju were found dead alongside their family dog in the Sierra National Forest on Aug. 17

Digital News Writer, PEOPLE

Over two months after a California family was mysteriously found dead with their dog along a hiking trail in the Sierra National Forest, their friends and loved ones finally have some answers.

In a press conference on Thursday, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office announced that John Gerrish, Ellen Chung and their 1-year-old daughter Miju died of hyperthermia and probable dehydration. Their 8-year-old dog Oski also suffered a heat-related death, police said.

Here is how an investigation into their deaths unfolded.

A family friend said they had recently relocated to be closer to nature.

During the pandemic, Gerrish and Chung had moved about 160 miles from their home in San Francisco to Central California, family friend Steve Jeffe told The Fresno Bee shortly after their bodies were found.

The couple made the move after Gerrish, a Silicon Valley software engineer, began working from home, Jeffe said. They wished to raise Miju away from a major city and hoped to trade in the bustle of the San Francisco Bay Area for the calm of nature, he explained.

“We’re all just devastated,” Jeff told the outlet. “They were really beloved by the people. A super generous, sweet and loving couple that was devoted to their daughter.”

Gerrish was originally from England, while Chung worked as a yoga instructor before becoming pregnant with their daughter, per the Merced Sun-Star.

gerrish family

The family was reported missing on Aug. 16 after embarking on a hiking trip.

The couple and their daughter were reported missing on Monday, Aug. 16 by their nanny, who arrived at the family’s home and found no one there, Jeffe told The Bee. The family had left for a hiking trip the day prior.

“You had to figure it wasn’t an overnight hike, because it’s been hot and they had the baby with them,” Jeffe told The Bee. “Jon was supposed to work Monday and never showed up. That raised more concerns.”

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Jon Gerrish, Muji, Ellen Chung

By Tuesday morning, the family was found dead. The Mariposa County Sheriff said the area where their bodies were discovered did “not indicate a clear picture of what occurred.”

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Officials said Gerrish was discovered in a seated position with Miju and Oski near him, according to The Washington Post. Meanwhile, Chung was found a ways away from them up a hill, the outlet reported.

Authorities spent two months ruling out numerous causes of death.

At the time that their bodies were found, the sheriff’s office said the situation was “currently being handled as a hazmat and coroner investigation.”

Over the next month, authorities worked to rule out numerous causes of death. The family and their dog reportedly did not have any physical wounds or signs of trauma on their bodies, leading the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office to initially rule out exposure to chemicals and use of a gun or another deadly weapon as potential causes of death.

In September, officials announced that all public areas along the Merced River between the towns of Briceburg and Bagby would be closed until at least Sept. 17 “in response to the presence of toxic algal blooms.” The area was located downstream from where the family was first found, per the Associated Press.

Later that month, authorities ruled out six more potential causes, including suicide, lightning strike, exposure to carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, or cyanide and illegal drugs and alcohol.

The family died of hyperthermia and probable dehydration.

On Oct. 21, two months after their bodies were found, authorities released an official cause of death for the family.

The Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that all three family members died of hyperthermia and probable dehydration. Their 8-year-old dog Oski also suffered a heat-related death, according to police.

“For Mariposa County, this is rare,” Sheriff Jeremy Briese told reporters. “This is the first hyperthermia cause of death that I’ve witnessed here in 20 years.”

John Gerrish and Ellen Chung

Police also ruled out that out that toxic algae played a role in the deaths, saying that they do not believe the family ingested the water in the area. During Thursday’s press conference, authorities noted how there were no filtration systems with the family, but one 85-ounce Camelbak water bottle and a bottle with formula were found near the site.

The water inside those bottles was tested but came back with no toxins and appeared to be clean or tap water, according to police.

Relatives said they feel “indescribable” pain over the loss.

On Thursday, Mariposa Public Information Officer issued a statement from Gerrish and Chung’s relatives that read: “The loss of a close relative is pain almost beyond words. When that loss is multiplied by four, and one of those losses is a baby, that pain is indescribable.”

The couple’s family went on to explain that “the lack of knowledge and certainty as reasons for the death” led them to frequently question the circumstances of the death for “all of the days and all of the nights.”

“Our hearts will never forget the beautiful lives of John, Ellen, Miju and of course, Oski,” the statement concluded. “They will remain with us wherever we are and whatever we do.”

Northern California family found on hiking trail died of extreme heat

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More On: deaths

Palestinian officials say house fire in Gaza Strip kills 21

Russian colonel tied to mobilization dies mysteriously

2-year-old New York boy starved to death after dad died of heart condition

Decomposed bodies of elderly woman and her son found in NYC apartment

The Northern California family of three found dead on a remote Sierra National Forest hiking trail over the summer died of extreme heat as temperatures soared to 109 degrees, authorities said this week.

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Jonathan Gerrish, his wife, Ellen Chung, and their 1-year-old daughter, Aurelia “Miju” Chung-Gerris, died of hyperthermia — which occurs when a person’s body temperature is dangerously high after exposure to hot, humid weather, Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Briese said Thursday.

Their dog, Oski — an 8-year-old Australian shepherd and Akita mix — also died on the trail. Oski’s exact cause of death is unclear, but Briese said evidence indicates the dog was “possibly suffering from heat-related issues.”

“This is an unfortunate and tragic event due to the weather,” Briese said.

Multiple other factors — including murder, lightning strikes, poisoning, illegal drugs and suicide — were investigated and ruled out.

The family set out around 8 a.m. Aug. 15, when temperatures sat around 74 degrees, according to Briese.

John Gerrish and his wife Ellen Chung.

John Gerrish, an experienced hiker, died with his wife, Ellen Chung. Instagram

But by the time they reached the steep uphill portion of the hike known as the Savage Lundy Trail, temperatures reached a scorching 109.

The family’s relatives reported them missing — and authorities found them two days later.

The family and their dog were reported to be found dead in this remote canyon area northeast of the town of Mariposa, Calif.

The family and their dog were reportedly found dead in this remote canyon area northeast of the town of Mariposa, Calif. Craig Kohlruss/The Fresno Bee via AP, File

Gerrish, 45, was an experienced hiker who used an app on his phone to plot a route along the Hite Cove Trail, a loop that runs about 8 miles, hugging the south fork of the Merced River, Briese said.

But shade was minimal on the trail, where many of the trees had been destroyed in a wildfire three years ago.

John Gerrish, Ellen Chung, their 1-year-old daughter Miju

The family set out around 8 a.m. Aug. 15, when temperatures sat around 74 degrees, according to Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Briese. Instagram

The family had an empty 85-ounce water container with them, investigators found.

Tests of the water in the Merced River indicated it was contaminated with Anatoxin A, a lethal toxin produced by blue-green algae — prompting the Bureau of Land Management to close campgrounds and recreation areas along a 28-mile swath of the river.

But Briese said Thursday there is no indication that the family drank any of the water.

A Mariposa County deputy sheriff stands watch over a remote area northeast of the town of Mariposa, Calif.

Multiple other factors — including murder, lightning strikes, poisoning, illegal drugs and suicide — were investigated and ruled out. Craig Kohlruss/The Fresno Bee via AP

The FBI is “making good progress” in attempting to unlock one of the adults’ cellphones, in an attempt to find “more answers about that day,” Briese said.

Unnamed family members issued a statement following the determination of the family’s cause of death.

“Some questions have been answered, and we will use this information as a way of helping us come to terms with the situation,” the relatives said in the statement, read by Kristie Mitchell, the public information officer for the sheriff’s office. “Our hearts will never forget the beautiful lives of Jonathan, Ellen, Miju, and, of course, Oski. They will remain with us wherever we go.”

A helicopter hovers over a remote area northeast of the town of Mariposa, Calif.

A helicopter hovers over a remote area northeast of the town of Mariposa, Calif. Craig Kohlruss/The Fresno Bee via AP

Source https://nypost.com/2021/10/22/northern-california-family-found-on-hiking-trail-died-of-extreme-heat/

Source https://people.com/human-interest/gerrish-family-who-died-on-california-hiking-trail-what-to-know/

Source https://nypost.com/2021/10/22/northern-california-family-found-on-hiking-trail-died-of-extreme-heat/

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