A family-of-three who were found dead on a Californian hiking trail may have been killed by poison algae.
The bodies of British-born software engineer John Gerrish, his wife Ellen Chung, their one-year-old daughter, Muji, and their pet dog were all mysteriously discovered dead on Tuesday.
They had been hiking at an area known as Devil’s Gulch in the Sierra National Forest, where waterways are being tested for toxic algae blooms, the Mariposa County Sheriff said.
The cause of death is still unknown but post-mortem examinations are being carried out.
Sheriff Jeremy Briese told local media: ‘We don’t know the cause… we won’t rest until we figure it out.
‘There’s no obvious indicators of how it occurred… you have two healthy adults, you have a healthy child and what appeared to be a healthy canine all within a general same area, deceased.’
It was suggested the family could have been killed by carbon monoxide released from old gold mines below where they were camping.
But Sheriff Briese has now ruled out that possibility.
He said: ‘From what I’ve gathered, these algae blooms are due to the recent drought,’ he added.
‘But I don’t know too much detail about the toxicity of them.’
A friend had reported the family missing at 11pm last Monday after Gerrish and Chung failed to show up for work that day, reports Fox 26 News.
They were last known to be safe after they uploaded a photo of a backpack to social media on Sunday. A family friend, Rosanna Heaslett, said the family liked to go hiking on weekends.
Their Ford Raptor was found near the Sierra National Forest gate early on Tuesday and the bodies of the couple, their daughter and pet dog were found between 9.30am and 10am.
The remote area where the bodies were found reportedly had no cellphone service.
It was close to the Hite Cove trail, known particularly in springtime to have spectacular wildflower displays.
According to social media posts, Gerrish was a native of Lancashire, England, who worked as a software engineer at Google. Chung, of Korean descent, was from Orange County, California.
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