Carbon monoxide could have killed Lancaster man and his family on California hiking trail
A Lancaster man, his wife and their one-year-old daughter were found dead on a California hiking trail in mysterious circumstances.
Jonathan Gerrish, originally from Lancaster, his wife Ellen Chung, 31, and their daughter, Muji, were all found by rescue teams in northern California on Tuesday (August 17).
They had been missing for three days before being discovered a day after their car was found near the Sierra National forest gate.
Reports indicate they were found in an area so remote that it did not have a mobile phone signal.
Their bodies were found near an area known as Devil’s Gulch in the Southfork of the Merced River alongside their pet dog - but the cause of death is not yet clear.
Deputy Kristie Mitchell, of the local sheriff’s office, said death by exposure to carbon monoxide couldn’t be ruled out, reports the Mirror.
Deputy Mitchell said: “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.”
The officer could not rule out carbon monoxide as the cause of death.
“That is why we’re treating it as a hazmat situation. We just don’t know,” she added.
“That’s one of many the explanation why we’re treating it as a hazmat state of affairs.”
The Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office began a Search and Rescue operation after the family was reported missing Monday night (August 16) at 11pm.
Sheriff personnel with the assistance of the California Department of Justice are conducting the investigation and processing the area.
Current information does not indicate a clear picture of what occurred or a clear cause of death, the scene is currently being handled as a hazmat and coroner investigation.
Sheriff Jeremy Briese said: “This is never the outcome we want or the news we want to deliver, my heart breaks for their family. Our Sheriff’s Chaplains and staff are working with their family and will continue to support them during this heartbreaking time.”
Additional details will be released as the investigation progresses.
Mr Gerrish grew up in Lancaster before studying at Newcastle University.
He later went to work in London before him and his wife moved out to the states.
Ms Chung is from Orange County, California.
The couple had lived in San Francisco but had recently moved to Mariposa, the county where the bodies were found.