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Mystery Of What Killed A Family Hiking In Mariposa County Solved

Investigators have finally nailed the cause of death of a young family and their dog, who all perished mysteriously during a hiking trip on a remote trail in Mariposa County in August, authorities said.

Mariposa Sheriff Jeremy Briese on Thursday said the family perished due to hyperthermia and dehydration as temperatures reached 109 in the afternoon while it was just 74 when they started the hike, reports San Francisco Chronicle.

Investigators reached this conclusion after conducting investigation, autopsies and toxicology reports, said Briese.

When body temperature rises to dangerous levels hyperthermia sets in. “Heat and lack of water on the steep stretch of switchbacks with no shade was too much for them to handle and they all succumbed,” Briese said.

‘Family Underestimated Difficulties’

Addressing a crowd of reporters, the sheriff said they were new to the area and hence underestimated the difficulties of the remote trail, unforgiving terrain, and the heat.

Some questions though remain unanswered like exactly when the members of the family and their pet died and whether they passed away at almost the same time. Their bodies were found close to each other more than two days after they started their hike.

Hites Cove Trail. Pic credit: yosemite.com

According to authorities, Jonathan Gerrish, 44, his wife Ellen Chung, 31, their 1-year-old daughter Miju and dog Oski started their hike on Aug. 15 on the Hites Cove Trail loop.

Investigators said that the family had almost completed the 8-mile loop before they died on a steep switchback, just under 2 miles from where they had parked their car.

Gerrish was found in a seated position with Miju and Oski next to him while Chung was slightly farther ahead on the path. Gerrish had a cell phone in his shirt pocket but the area had no reception. The FBI is working on unlocking the phone to find more clues.

‘They Weren’t Carrying Enough Water’

According to Briese, the family had a bladder backpack which held just 85 ounces of water when they started the hike, which was inadequate. Only a tiny quantity was found remaining when the bodies were found. They were also carrying some snacks and a bottle of baby formula.

The water was tested for toxins but the result came back negative.

The couple was wearing shorts and tank tops but no hats while the baby was in a backpack. They were just 1.6 miles from finishing the loop trail.

The cause of death of the 8-year-old dog remains undetermined but it also appeared to have succumbed to heat.

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