The cause of death has finally been released in the mysterious death of a family of hikers. In August, Jonathan Gerrish, Ellen Cheung, their young daughter, and their dog were all found dead on a popular hiking trail in Mariposa County near Yosemite National Park. The bodies were discovered in unusual positions with Gerish and his daughter calmly sitting on the side of the trail while Ellen Cheung was a little further up the trail.
A number of causes of death were ruled out including foul play, drugs/alcohol, rattlesnakes, poison, carbon monoxide exposure, and more. It was long suspected that the river below the trail was producing toxic gasses due to an algal bloom.
According to a report from Your Central Valley, authorities have determined the cause of death was hyperthermia or overheating. Given the circumstances, dehydration is likely too. The report states that the temperatures were between 107 and 109-degrees when the family was hiking and they were exposed to constant direct sunlight on the trail. According to the Sherrif, this is the first set of hyperthermia deaths in the county in over two decades.
Despite the cause of death being fairly straightforward, the fact that the family was positioned the way it was is still interesting. They must have all passed in a relatively short time window. This is a very good reminder that exposure to extreme heat can be very dangerous.