The scene is being treated as HAZMAT.
A young California family of three have been found dead in a remote area of Sierra National Forest.
The bodies of John Gerrish, Ellen Chung, and their one-year-old daughter Muji, as well as their pet golden retriever, were discovered on Tuesday morning near a hiking trail miles into the park.
There was no obvious cause of death, and investigators are treating the scene as HAZMAT.
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The family, from Mariposa, were reported missing by a family friend on Monday night. They had not been seen since Saturday; their final social media post was uploaded at 6:45 AM Sunday morning: a picture of the baby backpack the couple carry their daughter in.
Rosanna Heaslett told News4SA that the couple regularly went hiking on weekends, but had not returned or turned up for work on Monday morning.
Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office began a search-and-rescue operation, and located their new dark grey Ford Raptor parked at the Sierra National Forest gate, at the bottom of the trail leading to Hite Cove, a five mile hike.
But by 10 AM, the search was over: all four bodies were discovered near the Devil’s Gulch area in the South Fork of the Merced River drainage.
The area was so remote, rescuers had to hike back out to get satellite phone reception to report their grim find.
Sheriff’s Deputy Kristie Mitchell told the Fresno Bee that because of mines in the area, and because there was no obvious cause of death, the scene was being treated as a HAZMAT situation.
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“We’re processing the scene right now. There’s no clear indication of cause of death,” she said, adding that the bodies have still not been recovered.
“Coming across a scene where everyone involved, including the family dog that is deceased, that is not a typical thing that we have seen or other agencies have seen,” Mitchell said. “That is why we’re treating it as a hazmat situation. We just don’t know.”
Mitchell told CBS News one of the theories was the family may have died from carbon monoxide poisoning.
The California Department of Justice is now assisting the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office with the investigation.
“This is never the outcome we want or the news we want to deliver, my heart breaks for their family,” Sheriff Jeremy Briese said in a news release.
“Our Sheriff’s Chaplains and staff are working with their family and will continue to support them during this heartbreaking time.”
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