A husband, wife, 1-year-old daughter and their dog found deceased in what investigators are calling a hazmat situation

A father, wife, 1-year-old daughter and their dog found deceased in what investigators are cautiously calling a “hazmat situation” due to hazards in the area. The investigation is on-going. This is a developing story.

This story is developing, and details will be added when they are received and vetted.

According to USA Today,

A Northern California family reported missing on Monday, August 16, 2021, was found dead in a remote area of the Sierra National Forest on August 17, 2021, according to the local sheriff’s office.

Around 11p Monday, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office began a search and rescue mission after John Gerrish, Ellen Chung and their 1-year-old daughter, Miju, were reported missing.

Search teams located the family’s vehicle near the Sierra National Forest gate leading into an area known as Hites Cove. Shortly after, the search teams found the family, along with their dog, dead near the Merced River drainage in an area known as Devil’s Gulch.

“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.

The sheriff’s department is conducting an investigation into the family’s death alongside the California Department of Justice.

Mariposa County public information officer Kristie Mitchell told the Associated Press the deaths would be treated as a hazmat situation and confirmed to USA TODAY the reasoning may be due to the hazardous environment, which may have toxic algae and carbon monoxide, where the family was found.

“We aren’t specifically saying this is carbon monoxide, we aren’t saying it’s toxic algae, we aren’t saying that it couldn’t be something else. What we wanted to do was just take extra precautions because there are additional hazards in the area,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell added there were no signs of trauma or gunshot wounds, and there was no suicide note. Still, there is no clear indication of what caused the family’s death.

“That’s a hard question to answer. We aren’t ruling anything out at this point,” she said.

According to Frenso Bee,

The investigation into the deaths of a Mariposa family found in the mountains southwest of Yosemite National Park may have to wait on toxicology results, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday morning.

The bodies of John Gerrish, Ellen Chung, 1-year-old daughter Miju and the family dog were found near the Devil’s Gulch area in the South Fork of the Merced River drainage on Tuesday. The isolated location is about 15 miles southwest of the El Portal entrance to Yosemite National Park on Highway 140.

An update from the sheriff’s office and the California Department of Justice is expected later Wednesday, according to Deputy Kristie Mitchell.

The sheriff’s office wouldn’t say whether the investigation was being treated as a homicide, but said it could have to wait on toxicology results, which could take some time.

“At this point we can’t rule out anything,” Mitchell said.

The family had moved from San Francisco to Mariposa County during the pandemic.

According to a family friend, Gerrish was originally from England and has worked as a software engineer for Google and SnapChat. Chung originally was from Orange in Southern California and was a yoga instructor prior to her pregnancy.

The family loved the great outdoors and was reported missing Monday after going on a day hike on Sunday.

Their vehicle was found by search teams near a Sierra National Forest gate leading to Hites Cove in the area of Jerseydale. Their bodies were discovered between 9:30 a.m and 10 a.m. on Tuesday in an area so remote, search team members had to hike out to establish satellite phone connection.

There was no clear indication of the cause of death, the sheriff’s office said, and because of mines in the area, the scene was being treated as a hazmat scene.

As of Tuesday evening, authorities had yet to recover the bodies.

According to KRON4,

MARIPOSA, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – A family reported missing in Mariposa County late Monday was found dead on a hiking trail in a remote area of the Sierra National Forest, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

John Gerrish, Ellen Chung, 1-year-old daughter Miju, and the family dog were located dead near the Devil’s Gulch area in the Southfork of the Merced River drainage, according to a statement released by deputies on Tuesday.

The family’s vehicle was found nearby. A family friend reported them missing on Monday.

“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,” said Sheriff Jeremy Briese.

An investigation to determine the cause of the family’s death is underway. Deputies add that the incident scene is being handled as a HAZMAT and coroner investigation, and that there was no clear cause of death.

Missing NPF is following this case for further developments.

A correction to Miju’s name (originally reported as Muji) was released by reporting outlets; Missing NPF will make the appropriate modification to the case file.

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