Phones

California family made numerous calls for help on fatal hike, phone data shows | US news

authorities have released new phone data, including unsent text messages pleading for help, in the case of the young California family killed by extreme heat during a hike in a remote area of ​​the Sierra Nevada mountains in August.

The new details surrounding the deaths of 45-year-old Jonathan Gerrish, his 35-year-old wife Ellen Chung, their one-year old daughter Aurelia “Miju” Chung-Gerrish and their dog Oski, were released on Thursday by the Mariposa county sheriff’s Office, and included family photos taken during the hike, text message and phone call attempts, and GPS locations.

The information sheds light on the family’s final hours on the trail, including that the couple attempted at least six phone calls and messages by 12.36pm. None went through because of a poor cellular reception in the remote area.

In one ultimately unsent message, Gerrish wrote: “[Name redacted], can you help us. On savage lundy trail heading back to Hites cove trail. No water [over] heating with baby.”

Law enforcement officials announced last October that the family was killed by hyperthermia and a lack of water.

“Using the information extracted from the phone we were able to re-create the path and timeline based on the GPS locations. The details found on the phone support the findings of a heat-related incident,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement on Thursday.

According to authorities, at 7.44am on 15 August, the couple took a photo and video just a few yards from the trail head. The couple then took a photo of the trail 15 minutes later. Police found a photo of the Merced River taken an hour later at 9.05am.

An additional 10 photos were found on Gerrish’s phone that were taken between 9.35am and 10.16am, which featured the river, the couple, and selfie-style family photos. The last picture found on the phone was taken at 12.25pm ​​and was a screenshot of the couple’s location from AllTrails, a hiking trail app.

According to earlier police reports, a US Forest Service volunteer who hiked the nearly eight-mile loop over a dozen times told authorities that the family appeared “completely unaware of the dangers”. Records revealed that the couple only carried a sippy cup and a backpack with a 2.5-liter reservoir for water.

“If you are hiking in triple-degree temperatures you will need at least a liter of water for every hour you plan to be out,” Wesley Trimble, a communications and creative director with the American Hiking Society, previously told the Guardian.

On the day of the family’s hike, the temperatures were in the high 70s during the morning and then quickly rose to 109 in the afternoon while they were on the trail.

When officials found the family’s bodies on 17 August, the sheriff’s department described the case as an “unusual, unique situation” due to the absence of evident signs of death. In the months that followed, authorities considered but ultimately ruled out various causes of death, including carbon monoxide poisoning, exposure to gas from surrounding mines, a lightning strike, suicide and drugs.

In Thursday’s statement, Sheriff Jeremy Briese said: “The cell phone data results were the last thing both the family and detectives were waiting on. The extracted information confirms our initial findings. I am very proud of my team and our partner agencies for all the work they put in. Their dedication has allowed us to close this case and answer lingering questions the family had, bringing them a little peace.”

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