Hiking

Latest tragic text from California family who died of hyperthermia on hiking trail revealed

New details about the final moments before a family died of hyperthermia and dehydration on a remote hiking trail in California’s Sierra National Forest last fall have emerged in their phone records.

Jonathan Gerrish, Ellen Chung, their one-year-old daughter Aurelia Miju Chung-Gerrish and their dog Oski were found dead August 18, three days after undertaking an eight-mile hike on the Hite Cove trail in glorious sunshine with the temperature reaching up to 109 F (42 C).

There was no cellphone reception where the family was discovered, but the FBI spent months poring over their cellphone records for information on the circumstances surrounding the deaths.

The Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office released the information Thursday, saying it supports the coroner’s conclusion that they died due to environmental exposure.

Records show Gerrish had attempted to send several text messages, including one just before noon that read, “Can you help us.”

“On the Lundy Wilderness Trail back to Hites Cove Trail,” he continued. “No water or worm [over] warm up with baby.

Gerrish also attempted to make five phone calls, none of which were to 911.

Photos recovered from the phone showed the family leaving around 7.45am, with the final image of a stream taken around 12pm.

Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Briese said the records will be the final update from investigators on the case.

“The cell phone data results were the last thing the family and detectives were waiting for,” he said, according to The Fresno Bee. “The information extracted confirms our initial findings. I am very proud of my team and our partner agencies for all the work they have done. Their dedication allowed us to close this file and answer the family’s lingering questions, bringing them some peace.

At a press conference in October, Sheriff Briese said an empty 85-ounce bladder backpack was found next to the family when they were found, but they had not other water containers with them at the time.

They were also carrying snacks and a bottle containing formula.

The family had completed most of the course when they succumbed to the heat, he said.

At the same briefing, the sheriff showed a video during the press conference describing the terrain and the high elevation of the trail.

The family’s babysitter had sounded the alarm on August 16 when she arrived for her usual shift at their home and found they weren’t there.

She contacted their family members who reported them missing later that night.

Search and rescue teams first found the family’s vehicle before finding their bodies a short time later.

For the next two months, the case baffled the authorities, and the cause of their deaths remained a mystery.

“When we located the family, there was no apparent cause of death,” Sheriff Briese said in October.

Several causes of death were previously ruled out during the investigation, including: suicide, being caused by a gun or other weapon, alcohol, illegal drugs, lightning, extreme heat and exposure to cyanide, carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide.

One remaining theory was that they had been killed by poisonous algae found in the nearby water and investigators had worked with toxicology experts to determine if the high levels of toxicity could have poisoned the family.

Sheriff Briese confirmed that these tests confirmed the presence of toxic algae in the water, but said there was “no evidence that they drank this water”.

The area around the trail was also known to contain mines.

Sheriff Briese said a mine was also located near where the family was found, but there was no evidence the family had come into contact with it.

He added that what happened was “an unfortunate and tragic event due to the weather”.