Authorities Eye Toxic Algae In Deaths Of Family And Dog On California Hike

by Joseph K. Clark

Authorities are now looking at toxic algae blooms as the possible cause for the deaths of a family and their dog during a hike in California this week.

John Gerrish and Ellen Chung, their 1-year-old daughter, Miju, and Oski, the family’s golden retriever, were found dead on a remote hiking trail along the Merced River in the Sierra National Forest Tuesday after a family friend reported them missing.

California Hike

As officials speculated about what caused the deaths ― and considered the possibility of poisonous gases from old mines in the area ― the spot where the family was found was treated as a hazmat site. However, that declaration was lifted Wednesday, and investigators are now testing for any toxic algae blooms in the water.

“I don’t believe it’s connected to a mine,” Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Briese told the Fresno Bee. He said the closest mine was some 3 miles from where the bodies were found.

“We won’t rest until we figure it out,” the sheriff added. Authorities are awaiting the results of autopsy and toxicology tests. A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, Kristie Mitchell, called the deaths a “very unusual, unique situation.” There were “no signs of trauma, no obvious cause of death. There was no suicide note,” said Mitchell, per AP.

Sidney Radanovich, a family friend, described the couple as avid hikers who were particularly fond of exploring the area. “They were such a loving couple,” Radanovich told The San Francisco Chronicle. He said Gerrish, a San Francisco-based software designer, loved to show Miju “all sorts of things and explain them to her.”

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