Police Are Investigating Deaths Family Of Three & Their Dog Found On California Trail As A ‘Hazmat Situation’

Photo: YouTube / CBS
John Gerrish Ellen Chung Miju

A California family of three and their dog have been found dead on a hiking trail after being reported missing earlier this week.

John Gerrish, Ellen Chung, their 1-year-old daughter Miju, and the family dog were first reported missing on Monday night but were found dead the following day in Sierra National Forest, according to the Mariposa County Sheriff's Office.

The Sheriff’s Office said that an investigation has been launched into the exact cause of death of the young family but added that it is being treated as a “hazmat and coroner investigation.”

What happened to the California family found dead in Sierra National Forest?

While there is currently no clear cause of death, investigators have said it’s possible the family suffered carbon monoxide poisoning while on the trail. 

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There may have been carbon monoxide in the area. 

"It could be a carbon monoxide situation. That's one of the reasons why we're treating it as a hazmat situation," said Kristie Mitchell, a spokeswoman with the sheriff's office.

Sheriff Jeremy Briese said that there are some abandoned mine shafts in the area where the bodies were located. These may have released some dangerous gases. 

“We are taking it slow and methodically for the safety of the rescuers," Briese added. 

Police are pursuing a hazmat investigation.

Investigators will be treating the scene as a hazmat one — hazardous materials — due to the shocking manner of the family’s deaths. 

"Coming across a scene where everyone involved, including the family dog that is deceased, that is not a typical thing that we have seen or other agencies have seen," Mitchell also added.

"That is why we're treating it as a hazmat situation. We just don't know."

There may have been toxic algae in the area.

Sheriff Briese also added that there are toxic algal blooms in the nearby Merced River. He says there were warning signs along the trail to alert hikers of the potential hazard. 

However, he once again added that it is too early in the investigation to know if this impacted the family. 

The bodies were found in a remote area where there is no cellphone service. 

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Who was the family found dead in Sierra National Forest?

A friend of Gerrish and Chung, Steven Jeffe, provided details about the lives of the family before this tragic incident. 

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Gerrish, originally from England, was a software engineer working for Snapchat. Chung, who was from Southern California, was a yoga instructor before becoming a mother. 

Chung was reportedly going to graduate school, studying to become a marriage and family therapist.

The family reportedly relocated from San Francisco to the mountains of central California during the pandemic in the hopes of raising their daughter, Miju, in a slow-paced environment. 

Jeffe says the family went for a day hike on Sunday but never returned. The family’s nanny, who arrived at their home on Monday, was concerned when they had not returned home. Other loved ones soon became worried before reporting the family missing. 

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

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Alice Kelly is a senior news and entertainment editor for YourTango. Based out of Brooklyn, New York, her work covers all things social justice, pop culture, and human interest. Keep up with her Twitter for more.