John Gerrish family cause of death given as hypethermia and dehydration after hiking into extremely steep hot area. Victims included Silicon Valley software engineer, wife, Ellen Chung and the couple’s 1 year old daughter and their 8 year old dog.
In a press conference on Thursday, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that John Gerrish, a British Snapchat engineer, wife, Ellen Chung and their 1-year-old daughter Miju died of hyperthermia and probable dehydration. Their 8-year-old dog Oski also suffered a heat-related death, police said.
‘For Mariposa County, this is rare,’ Sheriff Jeremy Briese told reporters. ‘This is the first hyperthermia cause of death that I’ve witnessed here in 20 years.’
Briese said the family had been hiking on a steep trail where temperatures were between 107 and 109 degrees, though the temperature in the area where they started was in the 70s.
The family of three and their dog were discovered dead in the Devil’s Gulch section of the Hites Cove Trail on Aug. 17, just one day after they were reported missing by their nanny.
Toxic algae ruled out
As authorities worked to determine their cause of death, a portion of a river located near where the family was found was closed in September due to toxic algae.
During the press conference on Thursday, police said they do not believe the family ingested the water in the area. They also noted how there were no filtration systems with them, but one 85-ounce Camelbak water bottle and a bottle with formula were found near the site.
The water inside those bottles was tested but came back with no toxins and appeared to be clean or tap water, according to police.
Read a statement released by the family: ‘The loss of a close relative is pain almost beyond words. When that loss is multiplied by four, and one of those losses is a baby, that pain is indescribable.’
Cause of death previously eluded authorities
The family went on to explain that ‘the lack of knowledge and certainty as reasons for the death’ led them to frequently question the circumstances of the death for ‘all of the days and all of the nights.’
‘Our hearts will never forget the beautiful lives of John, Ellen, Miju and of course, Oski,’ the statement finished. ‘They will remain with us wherever we are and whatever we do.’
At the time of their deaths, the family and their dog reportedly did not have any physical wounds or signs of trauma on their bodies, leading the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office to initially rule out exposure to chemicals and use of a gun or another deadly weapon as potential causes of death.
Prior to their deaths, Gerrish and Chung had moved about 160 miles from their home in San Francisco to Central California during their pandemic, The Fresno Bee reported.