Authorities are now investigating a lightning strike as the possible culprit in the tragic deaths of a family and their dog, whose bodies were discovered on a remote California hiking trail.
Jonathan Gerrish, 45, his wife Ellen Chung, their baby girl Muji, and their dog Oski, were found dead in Sierra National Forest on August 17.
Investigators have confirmed that the family and their dog were not killed with weapons such as a knife or a gun, or by toxic gases from a nearby mine.
Water samples from the Merced River tested positive for toxic algae, forcing authorities to close the waterway between the towns of Bagby and Briceburg.
A spokesperson for the Bureau of Land Management said of the algae discovery: “These algal blooms can produce toxins that can make people and pets extremely sick.
“We will continue to monitor for the algae’s presence and look forward to when the public can safely recreate in the Merced River.”
While waiting for toxicology results, officials have said that a lightning strike could be the possible cause of death, the New York Times reported.
“Lightning is primarily an injury to the nervous system, often with brain injury and nerve injury. Serious burns seldom occur,” the National Weather Service said.
The bodies of the baby and her parents showed no visible signs of trauma.
Only 10 percent of lightning strikes can cause death, often due to cardiac arrest. According to reports, lightning kills at least 49 people per year in the US, and hundreds are left injured.
Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Briese said in a statement last week: “We know the family and friends of John and Ellen are desperate for answers, our team of detectives are working round the clock.
“Cases like this require us to be methodical and thorough while also reaching out to every resource we can find to help us bring those answers to them as quickly as we can.”
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