California Authorities Revealed Cause of Death of Family on Hiking Trail

Mariposa County officials says investigators determined the Jonathan Gerrish, his wife, Ellen Chung, and their one-year-old daughter died of hyperthermia.

A forest that was killed by the intense heat of the Creek Fire

Image via Getty/David McNew

A forest that was killed by the intense heat of the Creek Fire

The mysterious death of a California family this summer has been solved.

Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Briese shared the news during a press conference Thursday, more than two months after Jonathan Gerrish, 45; his wife, Ellen Chung, 30; their one-year-old daughter, Aurelia “Miju” Chung-Gerris; and their eight-year-old dog Oski were found dead on a hiking trail in the Sierra National Forest. The incident left investigators puzzled for months, as they found no evidence of homicide, suicide, or illegal drugs.

Following an extensive investigation, California authorities determined the family had died of hyperthermia and possible dehydration on Aug. 15, two days before they were reported missing. The sheriff said the dog’s cause of death has not been determined, but evidence suggests he had suffered from heat-related issues.

“This is a very tragic incident, tragic situation, and has been very unique from the onset,” Briese said, as reported by CNN.

The family reportedly began their hike around 8 in the morning, when temperatures were around the mid-70s. Briese told reporters that by the time they reached the Savage Lundy Trail, temperatures had reached about 109. The sheriff pointed out that the portion of the trail where the family was found had very little shade. He went to note the family was also found with an empty 85-ounce water container, but had no filters with them. 

Gerrish and Chung reportedly hiked 6.4 miles with their infant in a carrier, and were just 1.6 miles away from the vehicle when they died.

“The question of why can never be answered and will remain with us,” Gerrish and Chung’s relatives wrote in a statement published by CNN. “Our hearts will never forget the beautiful lives of Jonathan, Ellen, Miju, and of course Oski. They will remain with us wherever we go, and whatever we do.”

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