MARIPOSA, Calif. (KSEE) —The Mariposa County Sheriff’s office has released a cause of death for the Mariposa family and their dog that were mysteriously found dead on the Savage Lundy Trail on Aug. 17.
“The cause of death for Jonathan Gerrish, Ellen Chung, Aurelia Miju Chung Gerrish has been ruled as hyperthermia and probable dehydration, ” said Mariposa Co. Sheriff Jeremy Briese.
Briese said this is the first hyperthermia death case he has seen in Mariposa County over his 20-year career, and the family said that while this helps bring some closure, the answer of why still remains.
“Our hearts will never forget the beautiful lives of Jonathan, Ellen, and Miju and of course Oski,” read a statement from the family moments after the announcement was made. “They will remain with us where we go and whatever we do. In the future when we sit beneath the trees and hear the wind whistling through the trees we will hear them and remember.”
Briese said that around 8:00 a.m. on Aug. 15, the Gerrish-Chung family decided to hike the Hite Cove eight-mile-loop.
Briese said when the family started the temperature was around 75 degrees Fahrenheit, but over six miles and a large elevation decline, the temperature quickly rose to around 107-109 degrees with very little shade.
Investigators said on Aug. 16, the family was reported missing by their babysitter and on Aug. 17, their bodies were found.
“We are confident of our findings and our findings support the finding of the pathologist and the coroner’s office,” said Briese.
Briese said the family only had an 85-ounce water container, which was practically empty. They also had a phone but there was no cell coverage.
There are signs warning of toxic algal blooms on the trail and officials said there is no evidence that the family drank from the water streams. There are also abandoned mine shafts in the area that can release hazardous gases but officials ruled this out as a cause of death as well.
Officials from the Sheriff’s office said that the family used an app to find the trail and it is possible that they didn’t know how difficult the trail was or what resources were needed.