Sheriff’s deputies remained mystified over how a family of three, along with their dog, perished on a remote hiking trail in Mariposa County. Investigators were considering whether a toxic substance, such as gas from mines in the area or toxic algae, could have been responsible. They were treating the area where the bodies were found as a hazmat site.
John Gerrish, Ellen Chung and their 1-year-old daughter Miju — as well as their family dog — were found dead at the Devil’s Gulch area in the south fork of the Merced River in the Sierra National Forest, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office said. Deputy Kristie Mitchell told media outlets “the cause of death could have been a carbon monoxide situation.”
“That’s one of the reasons why we’re treating it as a hazmat situation,” Mitchell said.
The family’s Sunday hike was intended to be just a daylong hike, which prompted concern from multiple family friends when they didn’t come back home. Steven Jeffe, a family friend, used the phrase “freaky and strange” to describe his friends’ death.
“We’re all just devastated,” Jeffe told the Bee. “They were really beloved by the people. A super generous, sweet and loving couple that was devoted to their daughter.”
The California Department of Justice and sheriff’s office workers are investigating their deaths. Their death is being handled as a hazmat and coroner investigation.