A newly disclosed investigation report reveals that a California family of three was found dead on a hiking trail in Northern California this summer. The couple tried to resuscitate their one-year-old daughter, but all three died from the extreme heat as temperatures soared to 109 degrees Fahrenheit.
British-born software engineer Jonathan Gerrish, his Asian wife Ellen Chung and their daughter Miju were found dead of hypothermia and dehydration in August while hiking on the Sierra National Forest trail.
Jonathan Gerrish, 45, his wife Ellen Chung, 31, and their daughter Miju were found dead of hypothermia and dehydration in August while hiking trails in the remote Sierra National Forest.
Their dog Oski – an 8-year-old mixed breed – also died on the trail.
Investigators now believe the couple was desperately seeking medical help for Miju before they themselves perished in the brutal heat, according to a new 77-page report obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle.
Officials ruled out several other factors in their deaths during the investigation, including murder, lightning strikes, poisoning, illegal drug use and suicide. Early on, at the conclusion of the autopsies, the Grish family’s deaths were inexplicable.
Ellen Chung, a woman of Asian descent, graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 2012. She was a yoga teacher before she became pregnant. Gerrish was a software engineer of British descent. The couple lives in San Francisco, California. They have a mixed breed dog named Oski.
Both Ellen Chung and Gerrish were experienced hikers, according to their friend and former neighbor, Steven Jeffe.
A survival trainer wrote in an e-mail to detectives that the parents’ panicked efforts to help the babies likely led to their own deaths.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “Sadly, I believe they were caught off guard, and once they realized what they were getting into, they died trying to save their children and each other.” The trainer said in a letter to detectives.
He described the combination of terrain, altitude and heat as a “deadly trio.
The trainer wrote: “It is likely that the child failed first, which prompted the parents to try to climb the mountain.” “When one person can’t continue, that person stays behind to care for the children and pets while the other person tries to keep trying to get help for their loved ones. This is tragedy of the highest order.”
The family was found dead on Aug. 17, about 1.6 miles from the start of the Savage Lundy Trail, two days after they began their hike.
The couple had only brought about 85 ounces of water with them, the report said, even though U.S. Forest Service volunteers recommend 160 ounces of water per adult and 16 ounces for babies and dogs.
Water quality tests of the nearby Merced River showed it was contaminated with AnatoxinA, a deadly toxin produced by blue-green algae – prompting the Bureau of Land Management to close campgrounds and recreation areas along the 28-mile river. However, authorities found no signs that the family had drunk any of the contaminated water.