The investigation continues into the bizarre and mysterious death of a California family found dead on the Hites Cove Trail, a reasonably popular trail near Yosemite National Park on August 17, 2021.
According to the Washington Post, the family, comprised of Jonathan Gerrish, his wife Ellen Cheung, one-year-old daughter, and the family dog were located by a search and rescue team approximately 12-hours after being reported missing. Jonathan Gerrish was found dead in a seated position with his daughter and dog located next to him. Ellen Cheung was discovered a little further up the trail. The story takes a bizarre turn as the scene was described by authorities.
When police found their bodies, there were no signs of trauma…There was no suicide note or indication that the deaths were intentional…dehydration was deemed unlikely because there was still water in the family’s hydration pack. – Washington Post – 8-23-21
The eerie circumstances surrounding these deaths remained a mystery for weeks. The unknown cause of death and unusual positioning of the bodies left authorities scratching their heads.
Weeks later, there have been multiple theories regarding the cause of death. Lightning strikes, cardiac issues, and rattlesnake bites have all been discussed. Now, it appears that toxic algae in the Merced River could be the culprit. According to The Guardian, the Bureau of Land Management has closed campsites and trails along the Merced River after finding an “Algal Bloom” in the area. An algal bloom is the rapid expansion of bacteria and algae when water conditions are favorable.
Toxicology reports are still pending. This information should verify or discredit this theory. It is a little hard to believe that relatively experienced hikers would drink out of a river without filtering the water. That said, perhaps the water conditions were so harmful that simply swimming in the area is dangerous.
Images from:True Crime Society