While hiking through the California desert, a man, his wife, their child, and their dog found themselves struggling to cope with the heat. Last August, Jonathan Gerrish, 45, wife Ellen Chung, 31, their Aurelia ‘Miju’ Chung-Gerrish, one, and their dog Oski died while on the trail near the Merced River. When their bodies were found, authorities learned that Gerrish had desperately tried to send an SOS text message, but the message was never delivered due to poor cell phone reception in the desert area.
Gerrish worked as a Snapchat engineer. He was originally from Great Britain. He sent the desperate text before noon on August 15, 2021, to a person whose name had not been reported. The text message said, “Can you help us” and added: “No water or ver (over) heating with baby,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Investigators confirmed that the text message was never delivered. It also seemed that Gerrish had placed five calls that never made it through either. Investigators did not know what happened to the young family and looked into many causes of death, including suicide, illegal drugs, algae-tainted water, lightning strikes, murder, and the possibility that an abandoned mine in the area could have emitted toxic fumes.
However, authorities determined that the family died from extreme heat stroke. The temperatures in the area were as high as 109 degrees Fahrenheit, and a previous wildfire had burned down all the trees that could have provided shade. The family had run out of water while on the mountainous terrain and was unable to cool themselves down.
According to a report, a survival trainer worked with the police and said that the couple likely died while trying to save their daughter.
“Sadly, I believe they were caught off guard, and once they realized their situation, they died trying to save their child and each other,” the unidentified trainer wrote. “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. It is a tragedy of the highest order.”
Back in August, relatives reported the family missing. Two days later, authorities found their corpses along the California hiking trail. The family had a single 85-ounce water bottle that was dry as a bone. The family had gone hiking on a trail that was 6.4 miles long, and they collapsed about a mile and a half from where they had parked their car.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, the family made five phone calls to various numbers but did not try to call 911.
“The loss of the family is pain beyond words,” relatives said in a statement. “When that pain is compacted by lack of knowledge about their death, the questions of where, why, when, and how to fill the void, day and night.”
Every time you share an AWM story, you help build a home for a disabled veteran.