Man Rescued After Getting Lost Tracking Where Gerrish Family of 3 Died on Remote Calif. Trail

Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Briese said in a news release that the victim, a man in his mid 60s, believed the Gerrish family's deaths were “odd” and was attempting to research the case on his own

Jon Gerrish, Muji, Ellen Chung
John Gerrish, Ellen Chung and daughter Muji. Photo: Rosanna Heaslett

A Michigan man has been rescued from the same trail where the Gerrish family died last year after he visited the area to investigate the family's death, according to officials.

The unidentified man, described as being in his mid 60s, was reported missing near the Hites Cove and Savage Lundy trails in late June while looking into the family's deaths, according to a news release from the Mariposa County Sheriff's Office.

John Gerrish, Ellen Chung and their 1-year-old daughter Miju were mysteriously found dead with their dog along the hiking trail in the Sierra National Forest in August 2021. The MSCO previously said the family died of hyperthermia and probable dehydration.

However, Sheriff Jeremy Briese said in Saturday's release that the Michigan man believed the Gerrish's deaths were "odd" and was attempting to research the case on his own.

The missing man was eventually found on the Hites Cove Road portion of the trail, and was treated for dehydration and blisters to his feet, said a frustrated Briese.

"To have someone purposely put themselves in danger, using vital resources and potentially putting the safety of our staff in danger all to try and prove us wrong is maddening and quite frankly sickening," the sheriff explained in the release.

John Gerrish and Ellen Chung
John Gerrish, Ellen Chung. Courtesy Steven Jeffe

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The Mariposa County Sheriff's Emergency Dispatch Center was alerted to the Michigan man's disappearance on June 29, according to Saturday's release.

The person was reported missing after the reporting party noticed the man's rented vehicle remained parked by the trailhead.

The man allegedly started his trek by entering an area with a closed gate and a "CLOSED" sign in hopes of finding the Savage Lundy portion of the trail, per the release. He later attempted to call 911 for help, but Briese said "the calls would not go through."

Rescuers located two one-gallon water containers with the man, who claimed he was forced to drink water from the river area and had to stay overnight at the base of Hites Cove trail, authorities said.

The man, who ventured out during "some of the hottest days" the area has seen this year, was "wearing sweatpants" when he was found, the release stated.

While the man "was happy to be rescued," Briese said "he immediately started to complain that he was forced to spend the night at the bottom of Hites Cove trail because he was unable to find the trail that leads to the Savage Lundy portion."

The man was also concerned about the water he drank and "wanted to know if there had been updated algae testing," authorities said.

After being treated for his blisters and dehydration, the man "left the area in his rental car against medical advice," Briese said.

The sheriff said he is "proud of my team for their professionalism and for bringing this man back to [a] safe location," but criticized the man for his actions.

"The forest is the forest. It can be beautiful, dangerous, awe inspiring and treacherous all at the same time," Briese said, per Saturday's release. "The wonders of Mother Nature must be respected, it isn't Disneyland."

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