California couple found on Mariposa County hiking trail likely died trying to save 1-year-old baby, inquest report says

MARIPOSA COUNTY, Calif. – A Central California couple who were found dead with their one-year-old child and dog on a hiking trail in Mariposa County last August likely died trying to save their child in the extreme heat, an investigation report revealed.

The report obtained by ABC30 details the months-long investigation by the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office into the family’s death.

In October, authorities said Jonathan Gerrish, 45, Ellen Chung, 30, and their one-year-old baby died of hyperthermia and probable dehydration while hiking in Devil’s Gulch Valley.

RELATED: Sheriff: A family died of hyperthermia, possible dehydration while hiking the Mariposa Co.

Hyperthermia occurs when your body produces more heat than it can release and bodily functions begin to shut down.

The Gerrish family and their dog were found dead in an area along the trail while Chung was found further down the trail, according to the report.

A professional wilderness survival and first aid instructor, an expert witness in the inquest, told investigators they believe the baby may have manifested the illness first and a relative stayed to help the child while the other went for help.

“A baby in pain would make both parents want to go through the extreme heat,” the witness said. “When one couldn’t go on, they stayed to take care of the child and the pet, while the other tried to move on and get help. help for their loved ones. This is a tragedy of the first order.”

Another witness told investigators that he saw the family’s truck heading for the trail on August 15, around 8 a.m. The temperature at that time was 75 degrees at an elevation of approximately 3,800 feet.

The family hiked about 2.2 miles on the trail to an elevation of about 1,900 feet, where temperatures rose from 92 to 99 degrees.

RELATED: More causes of death ruled out in case Mariposa Co. family found dead on hiking trail

The trail was steep and temperatures were warmer than hikers would likely expect unless they are familiar with it.

An experienced hiker who spoke to detectives said he would stay out of the canyon from June to September due to the strenuous hiking and high sun and heat exposure, the report said.

Authorities say the family was carrying an 85-ounce jug of water. It was empty and they had no other water with them.

Water samples from the area were taken as part of the sheriff’s office investigation. Results found toxins in the water, but investigators don’t believe the family ingested it.

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