Couple, infant daughter, & family dog found dead in California after going missing from hike


Lean Jinghui | August 20, 2021, 02:44 PM

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A couple, their one-year-old daughter, and their dog were found dead in a remote area of the Sierra National Forest in California on Tuesday, Aug. 17, according to the Associated Press.


They had been reported missing on Monday night, according to a Facebook post by the local sheriff's office.

A Search and Rescue operation had subsequently been carried out at 11pm, with search teams locating the family's vehicle near the Sierra National Forest gate, close to the Hites Cove hiking trail.

The family – John Gerrish, Ellen Chung, their one-year-old daughter Miju, and the family dog – were found dead near the Devil's Gulch area in the Merced River drainage shortly after.

Hazmat situation

According to CBS News, there was no clear cause of death, leading authorities to treat the area as a hazmat scene (abbreviation for hazardous materials).

USA Today reported that had been no signs of trauma, suicide notes, or gunshot wounds.

Kristie Mitchell, a spokesperson with the local sheriff's office, told CBS News that it could be a carbon monoxide situation, which was why they were treating it as a hazmat.

According to sheriff Jeremy Briese, there were some abandoned mine shafts in the area, which could have released dangerous gases. However, this was not yet ruled as a determining factor.

Reportedly, the trail the family was on also had warnings about toxic algal blooms in the Merced River.

The deaths are currently still being investigated by the sheriff's office along with the California Department of Justice, according to USA Today.

Near the mountains

Family friend Steve Jeffe told The Fresno Bee that the couple had allegedly moved from San Francisco to be near the mountains.

They had wanted to raise their daughter in a "quiet, slow-paced environment", close to the mountains for hiking and camping adventures.

Gerrish had originally been from England, while Chung was from Southern California.

Jeffe said:

“We’re all just devastated. They were really beloved by the people. A super generous, sweet and loving couple that was devoted to their daughter.

It’s just a tragedy. You have people who pass away and die. And that’s always sad. This one is just so freaky and strange, and it’s really, really sad. They had so much going for them.”

Top screenshot via Fresno Bee YouTube

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