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.
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.
Kristie Mitchell, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, 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 friend of the family, 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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