Entire Family and Dog Mysteriously Die on California Hiking Trail

A family of three from Northern California and their dog were found dead Tuesday on a remote hiking trail in the state's Sierra National Forest.

California law enforcement officials announced Tuesday that they had found the family members— John Gerrish, Ellen Chung, and their one-year-old daughter, Miju— dead "near the Devil's Gulch area in the Southfork of the Merced River drainage."

In a statement posted to Facebook, the Mariposa County Sherriff's Office said the family had been reported missing Monday night at 11 p.m.

Hikers Die on California Hiking Trail
Three hikers were found dead on a trail in the Sierra National Forest this week—their cause of death is still undetermined. A vehicle enters the Sierra National Forest northeast of Fresno in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains under a smoke-filled sky during the Creek fire in Auberry, Fresno County on September 11, 2020. Frederic J. Brown

The sheriff's office said it had yet to determine how the family members died.

"Sheriff personnel with the assistance of the California Department of Justice are conducting the investigation and processing the area," the Mariposa County Sheriff's Office wrote. "Current scene 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."

Search teams found the family's vehicle "near the Sierra National Forest gate leading to Hites Cove in the Jerseydale area," according to the sheriff's office.

Law enforcement officials didn't find evidence of blunt force trauma at the scene according to television station KSEE.

"I've worked in different capacities but I've never seen a death like this," Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Briese told the station.

The sheriff said there are abandoned mine shafts in the area that can release dangerous gases, but added that law enforcement officers haven't "located a mine nearby."

Briese also added that there were warnings along the trail about toxic algal blooms in the Merced River, but said it was still unclear if they had anything to do with the deaths.

"At the beginning, there are some signage about algae blooms, but that's from the forest service, and I can't speak to the potential dangers of that," Briese said, according to KSEE.

KSEE reported early Thursday morning that according to the sheriff's office, autopsies and toxicology reports in the case are still pending.

In its Monday statement, the sheriff's office said additional details about the investigation would be released as it continues.

"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." Briese said.

The Mariposa County Sheriff's Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Newsweek Thursday morning.