Sheriff Says Family on California Hike Died of Extreme Heat

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SACRAMENTO, Calif.—A Northern California household recovered dormant connected a hiking way adjacent the Merced River died aft they overheated and ran retired of drinking h2o connected a sunny August day erstwhile temperatures reached 109 degrees Fahrenheit successful the steep upland terrain, authorities said Thursday.

The deaths of Jonathan Gerrish, his wife, Ellen Chung, their 1-year-old daughter, Aurelia “Miju” Chung-Gerrish, and their dog, Oski, had baffled investigators. The lawsuit progressive much than 30 instrumentality enforcement agencies who had painstakingly reviewed—and ruled out—causes specified arsenic murder, lightning strikes, poisoning, amerciable drugs and suicide.

On Thursday, Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Briese said investigators concluded the household died from hyperthermia, a information caused erstwhile a person’s assemblage somesthesia is dangerously precocious aft vulnerability to hot, humid weather. It’s unclear what killed the dog, an 8-year-old Australian shepherd and Akita mix. But Briese said grounds indicates the canine was “possibly suffering from heat-related issues.”

“This is an unfortunate and tragic lawsuit owed to the weather,” helium said.

Epoch Times Photo Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Briese speaks during a quality league successful Mariposa, Calif., connected Oct. 21, 2021. (Craig Kohlruss/The Fresno Bee via AP)

Briese described Gerrish, 45, arsenic an experienced hiker who utilized an app connected his telephone to crippled a way on the Hite Cove Trail, an astir 8-mile loop that hugs the southbound fork of the Merced River and is simply a fashionable spot to presumption wildflowers successful the spring.

But galore of the trees had been destroyed successful a wildfire 3 years ago, leaving overmuch of the way with precise small shade. The household and their canine began the hike astatine astir 8 a.m. connected Aug. 15.

It was astir 74 F erstwhile they started. But the somesthesia rapidly climbed arsenic the way descended and the time heated up. By the clip they reached the steep uphill conception of the hike known arsenic the Savage Lundy Trail, Briese said it was 109 F.

Officials recovered the household 2 days aboriginal aft relatives had reported them missing. The household had hiked 6.4 miles with the babe successful a backpack-type carrier. They were lone 1.6 miles distant from their car.

The household had an 85-ounce h2o instrumentality with them that was empty. A information of the way ran on the Merced River, wherever tests of the h2o showed it was contaminated with Anatoxin A, a lethal toxin produced by blue-green algae.

That prompted the Bureau of Land Management to adjacent campgrounds and recreation areas on 28 miles of the river, betwixt the towns of Briceburg and Bagby. But Briese said Thursday determination was nary grounds the household had drunk immoderate of the stream water.

Briese said the FBI is attempting to unlock 1 of the couple’s cellphones, saying the bureau is “making bully progress.”

“Our anticipation is that that cellphone volition proceed to springiness america much answers astir that day,” helium said.

Kristie Mitchell, the nationalist accusation serviceman for the sheriff’s office, work a connection from unnamed household members during a quality league connected Thursday.

“Some questions person been answered, and we volition usage this accusation arsenic a mode of helping america travel to presumption with the situation,” relatives said, according to the connection work by Mitchell. “Our hearts volition ne'er hide the beauteous lives of Jonathan, Ellen, Miju, and, of course, Oski. They volition stay with america wherever we go.”

By Adam Beam

The Associated Press

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