Suspicious Man Went to Investigate Hikers' Deaths, Had to Be Rescued

Michigan tourist rescued by California authorities
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 7, 2022 1:30 AM CDT
Suspicious Man Went to Investigate Hikers' Deaths, Had to Be Rescued
This Aug. 18, 2021, file photo shows a remote canyon area northeast of the town of Mariposa, Calif., that is reported to be the area where a family and their dog were found dead.   (Craig Kohlruss/The Fresno Bee via AP, File)

(Newser) – A Michigan man didn't buy the official story about the deaths of a California family and their dog in the Sierra Nevadas last year, so he traveled to the state to carry out his own investigation—and had to be rescued. The deaths of Ellen Chung, 30, her husband, Jonathan Gerrish, 45, their 1-year-old daughter, Miju, and their dog mystified investigators for some time, until ultimately it was determined they died of hyperthermia and likely dehydration while on a hike last August. The unnamed Michigan man, who authorities say is in his mid-60s, traveled to the trail on June 28, telling someone he encountered there that he found the heat-related explanation "odd" and was going to do his own probe, the Guardian and the Mercury News report.

It was that person who contacted authorities the next day, when he noticed the man's vehicle was still parked at the entrance to the trail. The man was located during a search and rescue mission, and said he hadn't been able to find the part of the trail he was looking for and couldn't get through when he tried to dial 911. He was treated for "badly blistered feet and dehydration" and then departed against medical advice, authorities say. The local sheriff says he's very angry at the situation. "To have someone purposely put themselves in danger, using vital resources and potentially putting the safety of our staff in danger all to try and prove us wrong, is maddening and quite frankly sickening," he says. The region has no cellphone reception and can quickly become dangerous when temperatures are high. (Read more California stories.)

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