Mystery of Brit found dead alongside family and dog on US hiking trail solved

The California family found mysteriously dead in August while hiking in the Sierra national forest died from extreme heat, officials said

The California family mysteriously found dead while hiking in the Sierra national forest most likely died from a combination of hyperthermia and dehydration, local law enforcement officials announced Thursday.

For two months investigators were perplexed by the inexplicable deaths of 45-year-old Jonathan Gerrish, originally from the UK, his wife, 30-year-old Ellen Chung, their one-year-old daughter Miju, and their dog, Oski.

The family ventured out to the eight-mile-long Hites Cove trail on August 15 into extremely hot temperatures reaching as high as 109F (42.8C).

They took one, 85-ounce water bottle on the trek, and there is no cellphone reception on the trail. Their bodies were discovered two days later southwest of Yosemite National Park, near the end of the trail.

Johnathan Gerrish and his wife, Ellen Chung, died while hiking with their one-year-old daughter and family dog. They died from hyperthermia and dehydration, officials said (Picture: Instagram)

The family had been reported missing by friends after Miju’s babysitter showed up the next day and found no one knew where they were.

Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Briese said in a press release that ‘heat-related deaths are extremely difficult to investigate’.

It was suggested that toxic algae may had been the cause of death, since the US Forest Service closed several hiking trails and recreational sites near where the family was found due to high levels of toxic algae in the water.

However, Briese said investigators found that wasn’t the case. Autopsy results confirmed no one in the family had ingested toxic algae.

The Gerrish-Chung family was reported missing a day after their fatal hike when the family’s baby sitter could not locate the family anywhere (Picture: Rossana Heaslett)

Mariposa County Sheriff investigators worked with toxicologists, environmental specialists, the FBI and other experts to determine the cause of death for the family.

Hyperthermia, often called ‘heat stroke’, results from an abnormally high body temperature usually due to exposure and over-exertion, where the body is unable to cool down.

The death of the family’s dog, an 8-year-old Aussie/Akita mix, hasn’t been determined, but Briese said it’s likely it was also heat-related.

In a statement read by a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, the Gerrish-Chung family said their loved ones’ deaths had been a ‘pain almost beyond words’, worsened by its mysterious nature.

They thanked officials for their work on the case and efforts to provide answers.

‘Our hearts will never forget the beautiful lives of Jonathan, Ellen, Miju and of course, Oski,’ the statement said.

‘They will remain with us wherever we go and in whatever we do. In the future, when we sit beneath the trees listening to the wind soaring through the branches, we will hear them and we will remember.’

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