Additional causes of death have been ruled out in the bizarre death of a family of hikers near Yosemite National Park.
Jonathan Gerrish, Ellen Cheung, their one-year-old daughter, and the family dog were found dead on a busy hiking trail in mid-August. The bodies were found in unusually calm positions with Gerrish and his daughter were in a seated position next to the family dog. Cheung was found further up the trail. There were no signs of trauma, suicide was ruled out, dehydration was unlikely as the family had water in their hydration packs. Mysterious indeed.
According to a report from ABC 7 Chicago more causes of death have been ruled out. The family did not die from a lightning strike, carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide exposure, or illegal drugs. Suicide and rattlesnake bites had previously been ruled out.
The elimination of additional causes of death seems to give additional credence to the “algal bloom” theory. An algal bloom is the rapid expansion of bacteria and algae when water conditions are favorable. If the bloom is potent enough, it can release toxic gasses into the air that could be harmful and potentially deadly. Since the family was hiking along the South Fork of the Merced River, this appears to be the most plausible explanation. Certain beaches and access points along the Merced River have been closed due to unusually high algae levels.