Trails and campgrounds near where a California family and their dog were mysteriously found dead have been closed due to “unknown hazards,” forest officials said.
The bodies of Jonathan Gerrish, 45, Ellen Chung, 30, their 1-year-old daughter, Aurelia Miju Chung-Gerrish, and the family’s dog were found by a search and rescue team on Aug. 17 in a remote area of the Sierra National Forest.
Investigators found no signs of trauma or an obvious cause of death for the family from Mariposa discovered on the Savage Lundy Trail, which was shut down Sunday through Sept. 26, Sierra National Forest officials said.
“As a precaution and to protect the public from unknown hazards in the area, the SNF decided to close several recreation sites, roads and trails along the Merced River and its South Fork until deemed safe for public use,” forest officials said Saturday.
Signs warning of potentially harmful algae blooms have been posted in the area since mid-July, officials said.
The family’s autopsies and a necropsy on their dog, Oksi, were inconclusive, CNN reported. Toxicology tests remain pending, however, and some results may be available as early as Wednesday, a Mariposa County sheriff’s spokeswoman told the network.
A message seeking additional comment was not immediately returned.
Sheriff’s officials have said they “ruled out” the use of a gun or other weapons and chemical hazards as possible causes of death, the Fresno Bee reported Thursday. All other potential causes remained a possibility, sheriff’s officials said.
Multiple water samples were taken for testing, the newspaper reported, citing the algae bloom a few miles away from where the family was found dead a day after a friend reported them missing.
Sheriff’s spokeswoman Kristie Mitchell said on Aug. 20 that toxicology tests can take up to six weeks and potentially longer, the Fresno Bee reported.
A friend of the couple, meanwhile, told CNN they were part of an “amazingly loving and doting family” whom he met years ago in San Francisco prior to them moving to Mariposa.
“It’s a bewildering event,” Steve Jeffe said. “There’s something so disconcerting about what happened. Whether it was environmental or manmade, it was obviously something they encountered.”
Gerrish, a software engineer, had earlier moved to the US from Lancaster in northwest England, while Chung was from Orange, California, the Sun reported.