Family's Death Hiking Near Yosemite Still a Mystery

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Investigators inactive don’t cognize what caused the deaths of Jonathan Gerrish, Ellen Chung, their 1-year-old daughter, Miju, and their dog. They were recovered connected Aug. 17.

Jonathan Gerrish, Ellen Chung, their 1-year-old daughter, Miju, and the household  dog, Oski, were each  recovered  dormant   connected  Aug. 17. The authorities had nary  mentation  for their deaths but closed disconnected  trails adjacent   wherever  their bodies were found.
Credit...via Steven Jeffe

Neil Vigdor

Sept. 3, 2021, 8:55 a.m. ET

The mates had backpacked successful the Himalayas, ridden camels done the Gobi Desert and checked disconnected Burning Man, adjacent creating their ain hashtag, an amalgamation of their archetypal names: #jellonadventures.

So a time of hiking successful the Sierra National Forest, adjacent with the demanding switchbacks and triple-digit heat, would not person been antithetic for Jonathan Gerrish and Ellen Chung, husband-and-wife transplants from San Francisco who had precocious go parents to a small girl, Miju, during the coronavirus pandemic.

But the trek would beryllium the family’s last: Search teams recovered each 3 of their bodies connected Aug. 17, 1 time aft the household was reported missing not acold from Yosemite National Park. The family’s dog, Oski, an Aussie-Akita mix, was besides recovered dead.

More than 2 weeks later, investigators are inactive confounded by what caused their deaths. Teams successful hazmat suits had already combed the country for clues. On Saturday, the U.S. Forest Service closed trails and recreation sites adjacent wherever the bodies were found.

The Forest Service had antecedently posted informing signs astir perchance toxic algae blooms successful the area. The bureau said it had taken the measurement to “protect the nationalist from chartless hazards.”

That improvement further disconcerted those who knew the family, including Steven Jeffe, a person and neighbour successful Mariposa, Calif.

“It’s mysterious,” Mr. Jeffe said successful an interrogation connected Wednesday, “the chartless of what information perchance lies there.”

Mr. Jeffe said helium became friends with the mates erstwhile each of them lived successful San Francisco. He described Mr. Gerrish, a bundle technologist calved successful Britain, and Ms. Chung, a postgraduate pupil successful household therapy who had worked arsenic a yoga instructor, arsenic outdoor types who were experienced hikers.


Credit...Frederic J. Brown/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Gerrish, 45, had worked arsenic a bundle technologist for Google, according to his LinkedIn profile. Most recently, helium had worked for Snapchat, according to Mr. Jeffe. Ms. Chung, 30, was raised successful Southern California and was of Korean descent, Mr. Jeffe said.

“It’s specified a beauteous family,” Mr. Jeffe said. “It’s evidently truthful devastating.”

Initial autopsy results person provided nary answers to the authorities. Investigators said that determination were nary signs of trauma and that they were investigating imaginable lightning strikes successful the area.

A spokeswoman for the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office said successful an email connected Wednesday that determination were nary caller updates successful the investigation.

In an interrogation with The Fresno Bee, Sheriff Jeremy Briese said that helium had ne'er encountered specified a mysterious case.

“It’s frustrating, and we’re not going to rest,” Sheriff Briese said. “Our biggest ngo is safety, but besides the household and bringing closure, and being capable to enactment them done this tragic time.”

On Aug. 19, the California State Water Resources Control Board, utilizing a water prime reporting map connected its website, warned the nationalist to “stay distant from algae and scum successful the water” adjacent the southbound fork of the Merced River successful the Sierra National Forest.

An incidental statement said that the bureau had received a study of a “suspected illness” successful the area. The informing antecedently made notation to a fatality, but was changed to accidental illness, The Bee reported.

“Do NOT fto pets spell successful the water, portion the water, oregon devour scum connected the shore,” the informing said. “Keep children distant from algae. Do not devour shellfish from this waterbody.”

The Forest Service, which temporarily closed each nationalist forests successful California this week due to the fact that of the wildfires spreading crossed the state, did not respond to a petition for comment.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, the household was reported missing astatine 11 p.m. connected Aug. 16. The adjacent day, hunt teams recovered the couple’s conveyance adjacent 1 of the gates to the Sierra National Forest. Their bodies were recovered a abbreviated clip aboriginal adjacent Devil Gulch.

“My thought initially was possibly the car veered disconnected the trail,” said Mr. Jeffe, who chopped abbreviated a travel to Croatia erstwhile helium learned that the bodies had been found. “People were going to spell retired and look.”

In an Instagram station successful August 2020, Ms. Chung beamed implicit the commencement of her daughter.

“Their girl was everything,” Mr. Jeffe said. “They were precise devoted parents.”

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