Family and Dog Mysteriously All Found Dead, Prompting Officials to Declare a 'Hazmat Situation'
A family of three from California was found dead near a remote hiking trail after they were reported missing earlier this week.
According to the Mariposa County Sheriff's Office, John Gerrish, Ellen Chung, their 1-year-old daughter, Miju, and the family dog, were found dead in a remote area of the Sierra National Forest on Tuesday. Authorities began searching for the family after they were reported missing on late Monday night.
"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," Sheriff Jeremy Briese said in a statement following the heartbreaking discovery.
The sheriff's office said the scene did "not indicate a clear picture of what occurred" and the situation is "currently being handled as a hazmat and coroner investigation." They are working with assistance from the California Department of Justice.
A spokesperson for the sheriff's office told the Associated Press they are looking into carbon monoxide as a potential cause of death. Carbon monoxide killed two Colorado miners in 2013, the NPR reported, and deputy Kristie Mitchell told the Fresno Bee there are mines in the area where the family was discovered.
"Coming across a scene where everyone involved, including the family dog that is deceased, that is not a typical thing that we have seen or other agencies have seen," Mitchell told the outlet. "That is why we're treating it as a hazmat situation. We just don't know."
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Mitchell also said the family was located in such a remote area that sheriff units had to hike to get satellite phone service.
A family friend said Gerrish was originally from England and worked in Silicon Valley, while Chung worked as a yoga instructor before becoming pregnant with their daughter, the Merced Sun-Star reported.