How did Jonathan Gerrish die? Family with baby, dog found dead on Yosemite trail
On August 17, 2021, an entire family was found dead along a hiking trail in California. The deceased members were identified as Jonathan Gerrish, his wife Ellen Chung, their one-year-old daughter Miju, and their family dog Oski. Found on a hiking trail in a remote part of the Sierra National Forest in Yosemite, the family's death had been ruled mysterious at the time. But now, two weeks after the shocking discovery, investigators have deduced that toxic algae bloom in the surrounding water bodies of the location might have led to the entire family's death.
Gerrish, a 45-year-old British software engineer for Snapchat, and his wife Chung, 30, were quite the outdoorsy couple. New York Times reported of the late couple's fondness for travel and how they had backpacked through the Himalayas and ridden camels through the Gobi Desert. They used to post enviable shots from their travel diaries on Instagram with the family hashtag #jellonadventures, which is an amalgamation of their names. Having moved from San Fransisco to California's Mariposa County, it, therefore, made sense for the couple to take a trip to the nearby forest despite the scorching temperatures at the time. Unfortunately, the trip proved to be fatal for the entire family.
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How did Jonathan Gerrish die?
According to the Mariposa County Sheriff's Office, Gerrish and his family were found dead in the Devil's Gulch area in the south fork of the Merced River in the Sierra National Forest. By the next ten days, causes of death from acute trauma, such as stabbing, gunshot wounds, or blunt force were ruled out. On Friday, September 3, a 28-mile stretch of the River Merced in the area was reportedly closed after water samples revealed dangerous levels of toxic algae present just downstream from where the family was found dead. Daily Mail writes that this has further validated speculation that the family died after drinking the water of the local bodies. The hiking trails and campgrounds along the stretch are also no longer open to the public.
While officials and authorities await toxicology reports, it's now being firmly believed that the family was poisoned by drinking the water in and around the area. Bureau of Land Management, who revealed results of the water sample, said through a spokesperson: "These algal blooms can produce toxins that can make people and pets extremely sick. We will continue to monitor for the algae’s presence and look forward to when the public can safely recreate in the Merced River."
How the family was found
Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Briese said a week ago: "We know the family and friends of John and Ellen are desperate for answers, our team of detectives are working round the clock. Cases like this require us to be methodical and thorough while also reaching out to every resource we can find to help us bring those answers to them as quickly as we can."
Investigators had also revealed for the first time since the family's discovery that Gerrish was researching the Hites Cove hike on a phone app just the day before the family had set off for their trip. They were last seen by a witness around 7:45 pm on August 15, traveling up to the hiking trail in a truck, which was found parked at the Hites Cove trailhead - just 1.5 miles away from where the family is believed to have died.
On August 16, a missing persons report was made around 11 pm and three hours later, their truck was discovered. Search teams deployed along the steep trails found the family along the switchbacks at 11 am on August 17. There were no signs of foul play and FBI agents are still working on extracting data from the couple's phones. Found dead on the Savage-Lundy hiking trail near Hites Cove, Gerrish had an illustrious career with Google after graduating from Newcastle University. His wife Chung, an American, was reportedly studying psychology.