MARIPOSA, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – A family of three reported missing in California late Monday was found dead Tuesday, according to the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office.
John Gerrish, Ellen Chung, and their 1-year-old daughter Muji, along with the family dog, were found in a remote area of the Sierra National Forest, according to a statement released by deputies Tuesday.
The Northern California family was found in an area known as Devil’s Gulch in the Southfork of the Merced River. Their vehicle was found nearby.
Police say there is no obvious trauma and no signs indicating the cause of death. An investigation to determine the cause of the family’s death is underway. Deputies said the area is being handled as a hazmat scene.
Sheriff Jeremy Briese of Mariposa County told reporters, “To my knowledge, I’ve been here 20 years and I’ve never seen an incident like this before…I know there has been some speculation, and we haven’t confirmed that, but there is signage from the forest service regarding an algae bloom. There’s some signage up there that could be poisonous but at this point, we can’t rule anything out.”
Authorities were initially concerned about the potential of carbon monoxide from mines in the area, but they haven’t found any mines yet.
“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 Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Briese.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.