Family, hiking dog died of extreme heat, US sheriff says – .

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Family, hiking dog died of extreme heat, US sheriff says – .


SACRAMENTO, CALIF. – A northern California family found dead on a hiking trail near the Merced River died after overheating and running out of clean water on a sunny August afternoon when temperatures reached 43C in the rugged mountainous terrain, authorities said Thursday.

The deaths of Jonathan Gerrish, his wife, Ellen Chung, their one-year-old daughter, Aurelia “Miju” Chung-Gerrish, and their dog, Oski, had baffled investigators. The case involved more than 30 law enforcement agencies that had thoroughly examined – and excluded – causes such as murder, lightning strikes, poisoning, illegal drugs and suicide.

On Thursday, Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Briese said investigators concluded the family had died of hyperthermia, a condition caused when a person’s body temperature is dangerously high after exposure to hot weather and humid. It is not known what killed the dog, an 8-year-old Australian Shepherd and an Akita mix. But Briese said the evidence indicates the dog “may have been suffering from heat-related issues.”

“It is an unfortunate and tragic event because of the weather,” he said.

Briese described Gerrish, 45, as an experienced hiker who used an app on his phone to plot a route along the Hite Cove Trail, an approximately eight mile loop that runs along the South Fork of the Merced River and is a popular place to see wildflowers. in spring.

But many trees had been destroyed in a wildfire three years ago, leaving much of the trail with very little shade. The family and their dog started the hike around 8 a.m. on August 15.

It was around 23 C when they started. But the temperature quickly climbed as the trail descended and the day warmed up. By the time they reached the steep part of the hike known as the Savage Lundy Trail, Briese said it was 43C.

Authorities found the family two days later after relatives reported their disappearance. The family had traveled 10.3 kilometers with the baby in a backpack-type baby carrier. They were only 2.5 kilometers from their car.

The family had a 2.5 liter water container with them, which was empty. Part of the trail ran along the Merced River, where testing of the water showed it to be contaminated with toxoid A, a deadly toxin produced by blue-green algae.

This prompted the Bureau of Land Management to close campgrounds and recreation areas along 45 kilometers of the river, between the towns of Briceburg and Bagby. But Briese said Thursday there was no evidence the family drank water from the river.

Briese said the FBI was trying to unlock one of the couple’s cell phones, saying the agency “is making good progress.”

“Our hope is that this cell phone will continue to give us more answers on this day,” he said.

Kristie Mitchell, the public information officer for the sheriff’s office, read a statement from anonymous family members at a press conference on Thursday.

“Some questions have been answered, and we will use that information as a way to help us deal with the situation,” relatives said, according to the statement read by Mitchell. “Our hearts will never forget the good life of Jonathan, Ellen, Miju and, of course, Oski. They will stay with us wherever we go. ”

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