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Mystery Of Sierra Hiking Family's Shocking Deaths Finally Solved

Sierra National Forest Hiking Family Of 3 Dead Mystery Solved Cause Of Death

This baffling and tragic case has finally come to a close.

It’s been over two months since the bodies of John Gerrish, his wife Ellen Chung, their 1-year-old daughter Muji, and even their family’s golden retriever were found dead on a hiking trail in the Sierra National Forest — with no apparent cause.

The family, who were reported missing on Monday, August 16 after they didn’t return from a Sunday hike, were found together in the open with no signs of physical trauma, drugs, suicide, animal attack, nothing. They were just dead. The area — a trail to Hite Cove, near Devil’s Gulch — was treated as a hazmat scene as the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office scrambled to find a cause. Campgrounds and recreation areas along the Merced River for miles were closed in case of deadly environmental factors in the water.

Related: Trail Of Bodies Discovered During Gabby Petito & Brian Laundrie Searches

Over the next weeks everything from carbon monoxide poisoning from old gold mines to toxic algae blooms near the water to lightning from a distant storm were thrown out as possible solutions. But one after another every possible cause was ruled out.

But 65 days after the family of three were found, after countless toxicology tests, authorities finally settled on a cause of death: hyperthermia (heatstroke) and probable dehydration. The dog, Oski, is believed to also have died a heat-related death as it stayed with the family.

In a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Briese explained the extreme heat exhaustion was due to extreme temperatures in the area. The temperature when they began their hike Sunday morning was 74 to 76 degrees — but as they walked on for miles, it got hotter and hotter. They were also exposed in the last leg of their journey to a steeper climb with almost no shade, in which they would have been subjected to direct sunlight; the Sheriff said at that time of day on that part of the trail they estimate the temperature was “between 107 and 109 degrees.” In all likelihood what seemed like an easy hike turned out to be too much for even avid outdoors aficionados like Jonathan and Ellen to handle.

Briese noted the family had just one water container on their person, an 85-ounce water CamelBak bladder, and that it was completely empty. So it seems they just weren’t prepared for such intense exposure. The Sheriff told reporters there is no cell phone reception in the area. At the time of their deaths, the family were only 1.6 miles from their vehicle.

In the end, Briese called the incident “an unfortunate and tragic event due to the weather.” As to how they finally got to their conclusion, he said:

“Once we were able to establish the timeline, once we were able to establish the confirmed weather, and also the terrain and the lack of shade and lack of water, once we got all that together with the autopsy reports, it all pretty much clicked together.”

Such a long, drawn out mystery with such a simple solution. Of course, it doesn’t make it any easier to take in. Our hearts go out to the family’s loved ones.

See the full press conference (below):

[Image via KSEE24/YouTube/Ellen Chung/Instagram]

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Oct 21, 2021 16:04pm PDT