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Horrifying Mystery As Family Of Three -- And Their Dog -- Found Dead With No Apparent Cause On Devil's Gulch Hiking Trail

Mariposa Family Found Dead Hiking Cause John Gerrish Ellen Chung

This is so scary! A missing family of three from Mariposa County, California, has been found dead, along with their dog. And it’s still unclear what happened to them.

Google engineer John Gerrish, his wife Ellen Chung, and their one-year-old daughter Aurelia Miju had not been seen since Saturday night, and a family friend was worried. The parents’ final social media post was early Sunday morning, a photo of the baby backpack they used to carry around their little girl — they were heading out on a hike. But after they didn’t show up to work on Monday, and no one could contact them, they were reported missing.

The Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office began a search-and-rescue operation in local hiking areas and quickly located their vehicle at the gate of the Sierra National Forest, by the start of the trail of the 5-mile hike to Hite Cove.

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Sadly, the search ended, around 10 a.m. Tuesday, with the realization of everyone’s worst fears. The entire family, including their golden retriever, were all found dead, on a trail near the Devil’s Gulch area.

Adding to the disturbing nature of the story is the fact no one seems to know what killed them. There was no sign of trauma or animal attack, no suicide note found. They were just lying there, out in the open.

Kristie Mitchell, a spokeswoman with the sheriff’s office, told that authorities have not yet been able to retrieve the bodies because they were in the middle of nowhere:

“The area is so remote the workers have to leave the area just to get a signal to communicate back to headquarters.”

Also complicating matters, they’re treating the site as a HAZMAT scene for the moment as they try to make sense of the situation. Mitchell said:

“It could be a carbon monoxide situation. That’s one of the reasons why we’re treating it as a hazmat situation.”

What would cause carbon monoxide poisoning out in the open air of the forest? Mitchell explained:

“There are several abandoned mines up in the area and in an abundance of caution or recovery team is taking precautions for any poisonous gases, particles in the area. So far, there has been no measurable poisons registered.”

However, mining engineering expert Dr. Mike Nelson pointed out to the outlet that gold mines don’t really produce excess carbon monoxide — and even if they did it would disperse in the air. Carbon monoxide poisoning happens when people are stuck in an enclosed space where there’s no clean air to breathe. Huh.

Mitchell admitted to TooFab the sad truth is, they just have no idea:

“We’re processing the scene right now. There’s no clear indication of cause of death… Coming across a scene where everyone involved, including the family dog that is deceased, that is not a typical thing that we have seen or other agencies have seen. That is why we’re treating it as a hazmat situation. We just don’t know.”

She would not rule out toxic algae or other environmental causes but said authorities would have to wait for a toxicology report to make any real sense of what happened. For now they can’t even determine whether this was a possible homicide or if there was no foul play involved at all. She added:

“It is a very bizarre situation.”

Gerrish was originally from England but live for years in San Francisco for his job with Google. Chung was a yoga instructor; the couple were very healthy by all accounts and absolutely loved the great outdoors.

The family recently moved to Mariposa County during the pandemic. Such a horrifying end to their story.

We just hope authorities can get to the bottom of this, and if there is something deadly in that area that no other families are lost to it.

[Image via Ellen Chung/Instagram.]

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Aug 18, 2021 17:07pm PDT

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