Tuesday, January 18th, 2022

Couple found dead on California hiking trail likely tried to save baby, report says


The California couple that died in August on a remote hiking trail in the Sierra National Forest along with their 1-year-old and family dog likely succumbed to the extreme heat, the lack of water and exertion, according to a report. 

John Gerrish, his wife, Ellen Chung, their 1-year-old daughter, Miju, and their dog were all found dead on a hiking trail near Hite’s Cove in the Sierra National Forest. 

A family friend had reported them missing after they didn’t return from their one-day hiking trip. 

Gerrish also missed work as a software engineer. Their deaths were considered mysterious and theories ranged from homicide to possible exposure to toxic gases from nearby abandoned mines. 

The San Francisco Chronicle obtained 77-pages of reports into their deaths, and investigators determined that there was a fatal combination of “disastrous choices” that lead to the tragedies.

The report said authorities first located the bodies of Gerrish, the child and the dog. The search continued for Chung, and her body was discovered “on the upside of a hill,” about 13 feet higher than her family.

Sierra National Forest. A Northern California family and their dog were found dead this week on a hiking trial in the forest. 

Sierra National Forest. A Northern California family and their dog were found dead this week on a hiking trial in the forest. 
(U.S Department of Agriculture, Forest Service)

The temperature on the trail is brutal in the summer months and the couple apparently did not bring enough water. One doctor reportedly told investigators that their “clock was ticking” the moment they started the hike.

One survival trainer told investigators that he believes the couple was “caught off guard, and once they realized their situation, they died trying to save their child and each other.”

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“It is likely the child began to succumb first, which hurried the parents’ efforts up the hill. When one could no longer continue, they stayed behind to care for the child and pet, while the other tried to forge on and get help for their loved ones. It is a tragedy of the highest order,” the trainer said.

Fox News’ Brie Stimson contributed to this report