Autopsy Fails to Reveal Cause of Death for Family Found Dead on California Hiking Trail

by Madison Miller

The death of a family of three and their dog later found on a California hiking trail remains shrouded in mystery.

Jonathan Gerrish and Ellen Chung appeared to be taking their 1-year-old daughter, Miju, and family dog on a hike through a remote part of the Sierra National Forest. The bodies were found near the south fork of the Merced River. A friend of the family reported them missing, which resulted in a search and rescue mission that ended in this tragedy.

Officials Still Looking for Cause of Death in California Family

Since then, officials have been trying to determine a cause of death. There were no signs of foul play or animal attacks at the scene of the incident. There was no suicide note present at the time of recovery either.

According to CNN, the investigation is going even deeper after the initial autopsy yielded no immediate resolutions regarding their deaths.

Authorities have been circling through a variety of different possibilities as to what could be the cause of death. The leading cause seems to be the family could have been exposed to toxic algae. It was reported near the Merced River in the past. Also possible would be carbon monoxide poisoning from nearby mines in the area.

The U.S. Forest Service had issued a warning last month that there were toxic algae in the water. People were urged not to swim in the water or let their pets drink from it. Due to the unknown aspects surrounding the death, rescuers had to treat the area like a hazmat scene to prevent any possible other deaths.

The hazmat declaration has since been lifted as of last Wednesday, according to NPR. The possibility of those toxic gases from old mines seems to be ruled out now as well.

As of now, the Mariposa County Coroner is waiting for toxicology reports. This may be the evidence needed to determine a cause of death. It will take two to three weeks to come in. Investigators are also testing waterways to determine if toxic algae blooms are in the area.

Family Were Avid Hikers, Loved Area

The family was also experienced hikers, which makes the death that much more mysterious. The father, who worked as a software designer, and his wife had bought a house in the Mariposa area as well as several rental investments.

“They were such a loving couple. They loved each other quite a bit. He loved showing the baby all sorts of things and explaining them to her,” a friend of the couple, Sidney Radanovich, said to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Officials are working around the clock to determine what it is that caused the death of this beloved family. It continues to make both officials and locals nervous as to possibly deadly environmental factors around them.

“You have a healthy family, and it’s a tragic loss of a child and the entire family and there are no real answers. It’s frustrating as an investigator and as a father that we haven’t been able to provide some closure for the family,” Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Briese said to the news outlet.