2:48 PM PDT, August 27, 2021
Toxic algae has been ruled out as the cause of the mysterious deaths of a California family.
John Gerrish, Ellen Chung, their one-year-old daughter Miju and the family dog were found dead on a hiking trail near Hite’s Cove in the Sierra National Forest.
The day before they were found, a family friend reported them missing, a report said.
Search teams first located the family’s vehicle located near the Sierra National Forest gate leading to Hites Cove in the Jerseydale area, and shortly after the family was located.
“Current scene information does not indicate a clear picture of what occurred or a clear cause of death,” the sheriff’s department said.
Investigators had been looking at whether exposure to chemicals from a nearby mine played a role.
A county sheriff’s spokesperson calls the deaths “very unusual” and says, “there were no signs of trauma, no obvious cause of death. There was no suicide note.”
Officials believe the family hiked over eight miles in triple-digit heat with little to no shade from trees. But they’re waiting on toxicology reports and cell phone data for more information.
Kristie Mitchell, public information officer with the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office, previously told Inside Edition Digital the family left for what was supposed to be a day hike. She said the area that bodies were found in was remote, is known as a mining area and had been flagged for toxic algae by the Sierra National Forest, and fliers were put up.
Mitchell told Inside Edition Digital that the family had moved to the Mariposa area from the San Francisco area within the last 16 months and did not live far from the trailhead. They were both avid hikers and hiked many trails in that area.
“It is not every day you come across a scene of an entire family and their dog that are seemingly healthy. There were no obvious signs of trauma. There are animals that are part of the forest but there were no signs, no gunshot wounds, no weapons, at the scene. That is the most frustrating part,” Mitchell said. “It is nothing the agency has seen before.”
Family friends have said the only comforting thing about the avid hiking family is that they were found together.