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'strange situation' Initial autopsy fails to identify cause of deaths of family found on hiking trail

Investigators have considered whether toxic gasses, toxic algae and carbon monoxide from abandoned mines near [the] area may have contributed to the deaths”

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John Gerrish, his wife Ellen Chung, their one-year-old daughter Miju were found dead along with their pet dog. Photo: Rossana Heaslett

John Gerrish, his wife Ellen Chung, their one-year-old daughter Miju were found dead along with their pet dog. Photo: Rossana Heaslett

John Gerrish, his wife Ellen Chung, their one-year-old daughter Miju were found dead along with their pet dog. Photo: Rossana Heaslett

An initial autopsy has failed to identify the cause of death of a family found dead on a hiking trail in northern California.

The bodies of Mariposa residents John Gerrish, Ellen Chung, their 1-year-old daughter Miju, and their family dog were discovered at the Devil's Gulch area of Sierra National Forest on Tuesday, a day after they were reported missing.

The Mariposa County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Kristie Mitchell said that there were no signs of acute trauma, such as stabbing, gunshot wounds or blunt-force trauma, and no suicide note that would indicate premeditation was found.

Toxicology results are expected in a few weeks and a necropsy is also being conducted on the dog, Mitchell confirmed to CNN.

“Investigators have considered whether toxic gasses, toxic algae and carbon monoxide from abandoned mines near [the] area may have contributed to the deaths,” she told Fox News.

“We're not focusing on one specific cause at this point. There's just still so many that we can't rule out. We've looked at lighting strikes in the area. We've looked at storms… the weather, animals. We're looking at the entire area as a whole.

“It makes for a very unique, very strange situation,” Mitchell added. “I think it's going to be a very long and in depth, thorough investigation because it isn't as clear cut as what some cases are.”

On Tuesday, Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office revealed that investigators were treating the incident as a “hazmat and coroner investigation” before the hazmat declaration was lifted on Wednesday.

Speaking about the case, Sheriff Jeremy Briese said: “This is never the outcome we want or the news we want to deliver, my heart breaks for their family. Our Sheriff’s Chaplains and staff are working with their family and will continue to support them during this heartbreaking time.”

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