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A Family Of Three And Their Dog Died Mysteriously On A Hike. We Finally Know Why.
Investigators say a couple, their infant daughter, and family dog died of hyperthermia and possible dehydration while hiking in California this summer.
When the bodies of Ellen Chung, John Gerrish, 1-year-old daughter Miju, and family dog Oski were found on a central California hiking trail Aug. 17, investigators were stumped.
Discovered in a small valley called the Devil’s Gulch, their remains showed no obvious wounds or signs of trauma — no indication that an animal or another person was to blame.
Had it been a lightning strike? A release of carbon monoxide or other gases from nearby abandoned mines? Exposure to cyanide? Suicide?
One by one, all of these theories were ruled out.
For two months, the deaths remained a mystery.
But on Thursday, sheriff’s deputies in Mariposa, a small mountain town east of San Jose that serves as a gateway to the Sierra National Forest and Yosemite National Park, announced they had finally identified the cause: heat.
Sheriff Jeremy Briese told reporters they had determined the family died of hyperthermia and possible dehydration due to excessive heat.
Hyperthermia is an abnormally high body temperature brought on by the failure of heat-regulating mechanisms in the body due to environmental conditions, according to the National Institutes of Health.
The cause of death for the dog was still being determined but was believed to be the same, according to Briese.
“This is an unfortunate and tragic event due to the weather,” Briese said.
The Gerrish/Chung family was reported missing late on Aug. 16 after British-born Gerrish, a 45-year-old who’d previously worked as a software engineer at Google, failed to log on for his new job at Snapchat.
A nanny scheduled to look after Miju that day said nobody had answered the door.
Chung, 30, was a yoga instructor who was studying to be a therapist. The couple had moved from San Francisco to Mariposa last year during the pandemic to give their young family more space. They’d purchased multiple properties in the area, including one near the Hite Cove Trail from where they first set out.