California Hiking Family Mysterious Death Update: Nearby Campgrounds Shutdown Due to ‘Unknown Hazards’

by Kati Michelle

National Parks can provide a great escape from the traditional hustle and bustle of city life. Couples, families, and individuals alike can soak in breathtaking views, breathe in fresh air, and reconnect with nature in a way not possible otherwise. Unfortunately, animal attacks, disappearances, and inexplicable deaths at National Parks are more common than they should be. We recently reported on a missing California family consisting of Jonathan Gerrish, his partner Ellen Chung, their 1-year-old daughter Miju, and the family dog, Oksi. This is an update to their story.

Just to re-cap, the family found themselves exploring California’s beautiful outskirts and its subsequent hiking trails the weekend of August 15th. After deciding on the 8.5-mile Hite Cove trail in California’s Sierra National Forest, the family vanished. Come Monday, August 23rd, a family friend reported their disappearance to authorities. The authorities immediately launched an investigation and stumbled upon their bodies. A sheriff’s spokesperson told CNN they were looking into the possibility of toxic algae contaminated water and deadly gases from nearby abandoned mines. Unfortunately, preliminary autopsies came back unhelpful. The next step involved opening up the case to the possibility of foul play. Without any obvious physical signs, however, authorities ultimately ruled this out as well. Authorities with decades of experience remained flabbergasted by the case.

California Prepares For The Worst

In an effort to prevent any other mysterious deaths or injuries, California’s National Park Service took drastic measures. As of August 28th, federal forest officials closed trails and campgrounds near the scene because of “unknown hazards.” They mandated the closings last until at least September 26th. The National Park Service actually issued an official statement on the matter saying “designated recreation sites, roads, and trails in proximity and/or leading to this location will be off-limits to the public.” Shortly after, the Caldor Wildfires forced California to shut down the whole of their National Forests.

With full uninterrupted access to the scene, people pray investigators can hopefully get some answers. As of now, there is still no official cause of death to report. In the meantime, search warrants for the family’s home and vehicles also came back with nothing. The FBI is currently extracting what they can from the family’s phones. With no cell service in the area of their disappearance, this lead might not go anywhere.

That being said, there is still a glimmer of hope. Pending toxicology results could potentially hold some kind of key to unlocking the secrets behind the tragedy. Results are set to be released by the end of the week or as early as Wednesday.

Friend Issues Statement

Steve Jeffe spoke out about his missing friends, whom he has been close to for years.

“They were an amazingly loving and doting family.” He also described the couple’s joys of parenthood. “They love their daughter very much.” He went on to add: “It’s a bewildering event. There’s something so disconcerting about what happened. Whether it was environmental or man-made, it was obviously something they encountered.”

Jeffe, like so many, just wants answers. We’re sending him and the extended Gerrish family strength and healing in the meantime. Stay tuned for updates.