Snapchat engineer and wife tried to save their baby who died first on a remote California hiking trail
A British Snapchat engineer and his wife tried to save their daughter, who died of hyperthermia and likely dehydration, before succumbing to heat on a remote hiking trail in California last summer, according to a recent study.
Jonathan Gerrish, 45, Ellen Chung, 31, and their 1-year-old daughter, Miju, and dog, Oski, all died in the 100F heat, researchers had concluded after the tragic family was discovered in August.
A survival trainer involved in the case wrote an email to detectives that the young couple likely died while trying to save their daughter.
“Unfortunately, I believe they were caught off guard and once they realized their situation, they died trying to save their child and each other,” the unidentified trainer wrote.
“Probably the child first began to succumb, which hastened the parents’ efforts up the hill. When one could go no further, they stayed behind to care for the child and pet, while the other tried to carry on and get help for their loved ones. It’s a tragedy of the highest order.’
The deaths of Jonathan Gerrish, Ellen Chung and their one-year-old daughter Muji, pictured, were initially treated as a dangerous situation due to the strange circumstances
A survival trainer involved in the case wrote an email to detectives stating that the young couple, pictured in the photo, likely died trying to save their daughter.
Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Briese, pictured, points to a map showing where a missing family was found dead during a press conference in Mariposa, California on Oct. 21, 2021
Since August, Mariposa County investigators had tossed algae-infested water, long-lost mines known to emit toxic gas, and searched for evidence of lightning strikes and toxic vegetation, all in an effort to find the cause behind the young mysterious deaths. of the family.
But on Friday, researchers revealed that high temperatures, combined with rugged terrain and lack of shade and water, ultimately led to their deaths, according to a 77-page report obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle.
Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Briese held a news conference in October to announce that the husband and wife and their daughter died of hyperthermia and probable dehydration.
The Northern California family went hiking on a remote trail near the Merced River in the Sierra National Forest, where they were found dead on Aug. 17 after a family friend reported them missing.
The family was found 2.5 miles from their vehicle in temperatures as low as 103 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Northern California family went hiking on a remote trail close to the Merced River in the Sierra National Forest, where they were found dead on Aug. 17
Briese showed images, pictured, of the ‘rough terrain’ where the family was found
There was one 85-ounce Camelbak water bladder that was empty. There were no other water containers, Briese said.
“The loss of the family is an unimaginable pain,” said relatives in a statement.
“When that pain is compounded by lack of knowledge about their deaths, the questions where, why, when and how fill the void, day and night.”
They thanked the sheriff’s office for “really going the extra mile” in seeking answers.
‘A number of questions have been answered and we will use them to process this.
“They will stay with us wherever we go or whatever we do.
“When we sit under the trees in the future and hear the wind blowing under the branches, we will think of them and remember them.”
The bodies of the family of three and their pet were found on the Savage Lundy Trail 2.5 miles from their parked truck
Briese said that dehydration can cause dizziness and eventually death.
Hyperthermia is an abnormally high body temperature caused by the failure of thermoregulatory mechanisms.
The cause of death of the family dog was undetermined, but I believe the dog also suffered from heat-related issues.
“Our message to the hiking community is that we should please consider aquifers and geography,” he said.
Gerrish and Chung’s deaths baffled investigators for months
He said they didn’t carry any water filtering equipment.
‘Prepare well. The community is resilient, the community is safe, but the weather has made this an unfortunate and tragic event.”
The pair were described by friends as experienced hikers, but relative newcomers to the area.
Briese suggested they may not have known how quickly temperatures in the terrain could rise.
When they started hiking, he said, the temperature was in the mid-70s; by the time they had barely covered two miles, it was already over 90.
Mariposa County Sheriff’s investigators have worked with toxicologists, environmentalists, the FBI and other experts.
They had already ruled out that the causes were related to a gun or other weapon, a lightning strike, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, exposure to cyanide, illegal drugs, alcohol or suicide.
Briese said there were “no apparent causes of death” when the family was found.
He said the area was known to have mines, and police were concerned about potential environmental hazards.
A first theory was that they could have been poisoned by toxic material in the water.
Toxic algal blooms were discovered about 12 miles (20 kilometers) downstream from where Gerrish and his family were found dead, prompting the Bureau of Land Management to close hiking trails and campgrounds along a stretch of the Merced River to the public earlier this month.
After water samples from the river tested positive for toxic algae, authorities closed 45 kilometers of the waterway between the towns of Briceburg and Bagby.
Briese said Thursday they used six separate labs to test the water.
“The water has been confirmed positive for Anatoxin-A,” says Briese.
Anatoxin-A is a naturally occurring toxin from blue-green algae, also known as Very Fast Death Factor (VFDF).
“There was no evidence that the family ingested the poison,” he said.
John Gerrish, 45, and his wife, Ellen Chung, 30, are said to be experienced hikers but new to the area
California’s Sierra National Forest closed off more than a dozen trails, campgrounds, and picnic areas, citing ‘unknown hazards’
At around 7:45 a.m. on August 15, a witness saw Gerrish and Chung heading to the Savage Lundy Trail in their truck.
Two days later, the parents, their one-year-old daughter and their dog, Oski, were discovered on the trail by search and rescue teams.
Investigators previously revealed that Gerrish was researching the Hites Cove walk on a phone app the day before the family set out on their doomed journey.
Detectives believe they managed most of a challenging 8.5-mile loop, including five miles down a steep slope with little shade when temperatures reached 109 degrees, before dying on the hiking trail about 2.5 miles from their truck, which was parked at the Hites Cove trailhead.
At 11 p.m. on Aug. 16, a missing person was reported and about three hours later, a Mariposa County sheriff’s department discovered their truck at the end of Hites Cove Road near the trailhead.
Search teams were deployed on the steep trails and the family was found at 11 a.m. on August 17 along the switchbacks leading back to their trucks.
Gerrish was a software developer for Snapchat and previously worked for Google. He graduated from Newcastle University. His American wife, Ellen Chung, studied psychology and the couple was very active
There was little evidence for detectives at the scene and no signs of malicious intent, such as trauma, police said.
No significant evidence was found in searches of the family home and vehicles, the sheriff’s office said.
Gerrish was a software developer for Snapchat and previously worked for Google. He graduated from Newcastle University.
His American wife studied psychology and the couple was very active, often spending time outdoors or traveling.