Northern California family killed by hyperthermia, dehydration on hike

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The mystery behind the deaths of a Northern California family on a hiking trail near the Merced River has finally been solved.

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Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Briese said Thursday that hyperthermia — which occurs when a person’s body temperature is dangerously high due to hot, humid weather — and probable dehydration was the combined killer after they ran out of drinking water reports CP.

Jonathan Gerrish, his wife Ellen Chung, their 1-year-old daughter, Aurelia “Miju” Chung-Gerrish, and their dog, Oski, were hiking on steep terrain on a sweltering afternoon on Aug. 15 when temperatures reached 43 C (109 degrees F).

Their deaths had dumbfounded more than 30 law enforcement agencies involved who eventually ruled out such things as murder, lightning strikes, poisoning, illegal drugs and suicide.

It’s still what unclear what killed their dog, an 8-year-old Australian shepherd-Akita mix, but Briese said it was “possibly suffering from heat-related issues.”

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Authorities called Gerrish, 45, an experienced hiker who used a phone app to come up with a 13-km route along the Hite Cove Trail goes along the south fork of the Merced River.

However, many trees were burned in a wildfire three years ago so the trail had very little shade when the family began their hike at about 8 a.m.

The trio and their dog were found two days later about 2.5 km from their car with an empty 2.5-litre water container after relatives had reported them missing.

Briese said the FBI is still attempting to unlock one of the couple’s phones adding: “Our hope is that that cellphone will continue to give us more answers about that day.”

– with files from CP.

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