October 23, 2021

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‘Additional hazards in the area’: Mystery around remote location in California where family of three was found dead

Sheriffs investigating the deaths of a family of three who died in mysterious circumstances in California’s Sierra National Forest say there are “additional hazards in the area”.

John Gerrish, his partner Ellen Chung, and their one-year-old daughter Miju, were reported missing by a relative at 11pm on Monday in a remote area 200 miles east of San Francisco, near the Yosemite National Park.

Search teams located the family vehicle on Tuesday and found the bodies that evening along with their dog near an area known as Devil’s Gulch, in the Southfork of the Merced River, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office said.

The Southfork of the Merced River where the bodies were found is about 320 kms (200 miles) east of San Francisco

(Google Maps)

Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Briese said chaplains were supporting the family during this “heartbreaking” time.

“This is never the outcome we want or the news we want to deliver; my heart breaks for their family.”

The sheriff’s office initially said the family could have died from carbon monoxide poisoning or from toxic algae, and they were treating the incident as a “hazmat and coroner investigation”.

Yesterday, Mr Briese told reporters there are several abandoned mine shafts in the area, which can release poisonous gases.

Carbon monoxide poisoning killed two miners in Colorado left others 19 others unwell at a gold and silver mine in southwestern Colorado in 2013.

Sheriff’s deputies and the the California Department of Justice are investigating the deaths.

The results of autopsies and toxicology reports are expected in the coming days.

Mariposa County public information officer Kristie Mitchell said yesterday the cause of deaths was still unconfirmed, and the area remained hazardous.

“We aren’t specifically saying this is carbon monoxide, we aren’t saying it’s toxic algae, we aren’t saying that it couldn’t be something else.

“What we wanted to do was just take extra precautions because there are additional hazards in the area,” Ms Mitchell said.

Ms Mitchell said the bodies showed no signs of trauma or gunshot wounds, and no suicide note had been found.

“We aren’t ruling anything out at this point,” she said.

A friend of the couple told Your Central Valley that Mr Gerrish was from the United Kingdom while Ms Chung was from San Diego, and they owned rental property in the area.

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