Final Text Revealed From Family Who Died on Trail

From Jonathan Gerrish's phone: 'can you help us. ... No water or ver [over] heating with baby'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 6, 2021 11:40 AM CST
Updated Feb 19, 2022 8:30 AM CST
Hikers' Last Moments Likely Spent Trying to Save Baby
This Aug. 18 photo shows a remote canyon area northeast of the town of Mariposa, Calif., where a family and their dog were found dead.   (Craig Kohlruss/The Fresno Bee via AP, File)

Update: More is now known about the final hours of a California family who perished on a hike near Yosemite over the summer, thanks to dad Jonathan Gerrish's cellphone, reports CNN. Per the Mariposa County Sheriff's Office, some of the last things that Gerrish, wife Ellen Chung, and baby Aurelia "Miju" Chung-Gerrish did during their deadly Aug. 15 trek included posing for pictures together and taking nature photos, according to data found on Gerrish's phone. Perhaps most heartbreaking, however, are multiple phone calls and a text that never went through, as the area has no cellphone service. The text from 11:56 that morning to an un-IDed recipient read: "can you help us. On savage lundy trail heading back to Hites cove trail. No water or ver [over] heating with baby." Over the next 40 minutes, five calls were also made to multiple numbers. "The cellphone data results were the last thing both the family and detectives were waiting on," Sheriff Jeremy Briese says. Our original story from Dec. 6 follows:

For weeks, it was a mystery of the highest order. How did a California couple perish with their 1-year-old daughter and dog on a California hiking trail? In October, the Mariposa County Sheriff's Office ended the speculation by announcing that Ellen Chung, 31, Jonathan Gerrish, 45, daughter Miju, and dog Oski succumbed to the heat—specifically to hyperthermia and dehydration. And now the San Francisco Chronicle has obtained 77 pages of investigative reports backing up that conclusion. One of the wrenching details is that it appears the couple spent their final moments trying to save their daughter. Among the key points:

  • The couple left for an 8-mile hike in the Sierra National Forest early in the morning on Aug. 15, when the temperature was in the 70s. It would peak at 109 that day. They "appeared to catastrophically underestimate just how dangerous their trek would be," per the story. For one thing, they didn't bring nearly enough water.
  • They made it about 80% of the way. The body of Gerrish was found with the couple's child and dog, while they body of Chung was found nearby, partway up a hill.
  • "Sadly, I believe they were caught off guard, and once they realized their situation, they died trying to save their child and each other," detectives quote a survival trainer as writing. "It is likely the child began to succumb first, which hurried the parents' efforts up the hill. When one could no longer continue, they stayed behind to care for the child and pet, while the other tried to forge on and get help for their loved ones."
(More hikers stories.)

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