California family found dead in August likely died of hyperthermia and dehydration, sheriff confirms

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Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Bryce confirmed that three California men found dead in August died of hyperthermia and possible dehydration.

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The cause of death comes nearly two months after John Gerrish, Ellen Chung and their 1-year-old daughter Mizu, were found dead on a hiking trail near the Merced River in the Sierra National Forest.

The death of the family dog, an 8-year-old Australian/Akita mix named Oski, has not been determined, but Breese said it was likely heat-related as well.


“This is an unfortunate and sad event because of the weather,” Bryce told a news conference on Thursday afternoon. “If you’re going to hike, prepare appropriately.”

Hyperthermia occurs when the body becomes too hot under extreme conditions and cannot regulate heat, the body temperature exceeds 104 degrees Fahrenheit, According to the National Institutes of Health. Heat stroke is a form of hyperthermia.

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The family was reported missing on August 17 and was found dead the next day along the Savage-Lundy Trail at Devil’s Gulch near Heights Cove, southwest of Yosemite National Park. Preliminary autopsy results showed no clear cause of death, leaving the investigation under way baffling the authorities.

Mariposa County Sheriff investigators worked with toxicologists, environmental experts, the FBI and other experts. Previously, they denied that the deaths were caused by a gun or any other weapon, lightning, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, cyanide exposure, illegal drugs, alcohol, or suicide.

Since the death of the family, poisonous algae was considered a possible cause of death, especially since US Forest Service closed Several hiking trails and recreational sites are along the river and near where the family was found due to “unknown dangers”. Water samples taken nearby showed high levels of toxic algae in the water.

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However, Breeze said investigators determined that none of the family members had eaten any poisonous algae. The family had only one water bottle, an 85-ounce container, which was empty. When they were on the mark, the temperature reached 103 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bryce added a phone recovered at the scene that belonged to Gerrish, and sent it to the FBI in hopes of seeing if Gerrish had attempted to call for help.

Sheriff’s spokeswoman Christie Mitchell said in a statement, “The loss of a close relative is pain beyond words. When that loss is multiplied by four and that one in four is just a one-year-old child, that pain.” is indescribable.” by the victim’s family. “Some questions have been answered, and we will use this information as a way to help us deal with the situation. However, the question of why cannot be answered and will remain with us.

“Our hearts will never forget the beautiful lives of Jonathan, Ellen, Mizu and of course Oski, as they will be with us wherever we go,” the statement read.

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