At a press conference Thursday, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that John Gerrish, 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 it’s rare,” Sheriff Jeremy Briese told reporters. “It is the number one cause of hyperthermia death that I have witnessed here in 20 years. “
The family of three and their dog were found dead in the Devil’s Gulch section of the Hites Cove Trail on August 17, just a day after they were reported missing by their nanny.
Rosanna Heaslett Jon Gerrish, Muji, Ellen Chung
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As authorities scrambled to determine the cause of their deaths, part of a river near where the family was found was closed in September due to toxic algae.
Toxic or harmful algae, also known as blue-green algae, grows in warm, slow-moving, nutrient-rich waters, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). When ingested or ingested, toxic algae can cause illness or death in humans and animals.
During Thursday’s press conference, police said they did not believe the family had ingested the water in the area. They also noted that there was no filtration system with them, but an 85-ounce bottle of Camelbak water and a bottle with infant formula were found near the site.
The water inside these bottles was tested but came back toxin-free and appeared to be clean or tap water, police said.
Later in the conference, Mariposa’s public information official released a family statement that said, “The loss of a close relative is pain almost beyond words. When that loss is quadrupled, and one of those losses is a baby, that pain is indescribable. “
The family went on to explain that “the lack of knowledge and certainty as the reasons for the death” caused them to frequently question the circumstances of the death during “every day and night”.
“Our hearts will never forget the good life of John, Ellen, Miju and of course, Oski,” the statement concluded. “They will stay with us wherever we are and whatever we do. “
Ellen chung / instagram Ellen Chung and John Gerrish
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When the family were found dead over the summer, officials said Gerrish was discovered sitting with Miju and Oski near him, according to him. Le Washington Post. Meanwhile, Chung was found high on a hill far from them, the outlet reported.
The family and their dog reportedly had no physical injuries or signs of trauma to their bodies, leading the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office to initially rule out exposure to chemicals and the use of a weapon. firearms or other lethal weapon as potential causes of death.
In September, officials announced that all public areas along the Merced River between the towns of Briceburg and Bagby would be closed until at least September 17 “in response to the presence of toxic algal blooms.” The area was located downstream from where the family was first found, according to the Associated Press.
Later in the month, authorities ruled out six other potential causes, including suicide, lightning, exposure to carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide or cyanide, and illegal drugs and alcohol.
Courtesy of Steven Jeffe John Gerrish, Ellen Chung
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Before their deaths, Gerrish and Chung had moved about 160 miles from their home in San Francisco to central California during their pandemic, family friend Steve Jeffe said. The Fresno Bee.
The couple took the step after Gerrish, a Silicon Valley software engineer, started working from home, Jeffe said. They wanted to raise Miju away from a big city and hoped to trade the hustle and bustle of the San Francisco Bay Area for the stillness of nature, he explained.
“We’re all devastated,” Jeff told the outlet. “They were really loved by people. A super generous, sweet and loving couple who were devoted to their daughter. “
Gerrish was originally from England, while Chung worked as a yoga teacher before becoming pregnant with their daughter, according to the Merced Sun-Star.