CA - Jonathan Gerrish, Ellen Chung, daughter, 1 & dog, suspicious death hiking area, Aug 2021 #5

Discussion in 'Up to the Minute' started by dalsglen, Aug 18, 2021.

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  1. NSamuelle

    NSamuelle Well-Known Member

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    MOO, I think there is something in their small camelback water supply that they are still testing. They should’ve tested that immediately in order to determine whether it was river water with toxic algae. They’re comfortable ruling out illegal drugs and suicide - suicide requires a lot of toxicology testing - why haven’t they yet been able to release the results of tests on the water? Will they ever?
     


  2. alibrarian

    alibrarian Well-Known Member

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    It is painful to consider they did not all pass at the same time, and that someone's last moments was knowing a beloved family member was gone. I've been following since the start and I wish I had more to add. One thing I was wondering about in all this that I can't recall deep discussion on - is it at all possible they did not perish on Sunday, but something kept them down by the river overnight (broken ankle?) and they were walking back up the trail on Monday, only to have something occur? Less time spent after passing in the heat might have made it more obvious of no external signs or COD when found?
     
  3. Han

    Han Well-Known Member

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    Not to be argumentative, how do you arrive at the conclusion they were trapped and past the point of no return within the first hour or two? Are you eliminating the river as a source of cooling before continuing their hike or even as a way to delay the rest of their hike?

    ETA: also, as has been said before they could turn around; how are they trapped?

    Thank you
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2021
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  4. rahod1

    rahod1 Well-Known Member

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    I'm assuming they didn't use the river as a source of cooling due to the warnings on toxic algae. Would this have helped? Possibly had they stayed the night at/in the water and departed at day break. We'll never know, unless LE has evidence of this. When I say *point of no return* I meant there WAS a point where they could have turned around and survived (MOO>>first hour or two) even if they avoided the river water. WHEN/WHERE that was in this hike , I can only guess. Any return would entail a steep hike back up HC Trail at some point in the heat. I would venture to guess it would have to have been prior to it's reaching the river. MOO
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2021
  5. IceIce9

    IceIce9 Verified EMT

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    If they knew they were in trouble possibly they could have set the dog free to go for help?
     
  6. Parsnip

    Parsnip Well-Known Member

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    Let’s see if this scenario ticks the following boxes: 1) well-prepared parents who would never risk their child or dog; and 2) at least 3, probably 4 deaths by heat stroke. Some details are entirely speculation on my part.

    On the Friday before their hike, as the nanny leaves for the day, she and EC chat about plans for the weekend. EC mentions that they’re planning to head over on Sunday to one of their properties to take photos. They want to add interest to potential renters.

    On Saturday, JG starts investigating HC. He checks AllTrails, and he calls/texts/FTs with his friend SJ. SJ advises that there is good swimming at the river, but given the heat, the family should probably plan an early start. ATVs do go down the trail, but the G-C truck won’t fit. Following up on SJ’s advice, the family checks out the area on Saturday, walking around the area, leaving footprints.

    They arrive at the following plan: they’ll leave for the rental early on Sunday. JG will hang behind with the baby and dog while EC walks down to the trail head. She wants to do the whole loop. It’s too much for the baby and dog, so JG plans to head over with all the gear necessary for a family to play in the water after giving her a head start. They’ll take the shorter route down the switch backs, meeting EC at the river. On the way up the switchbacks, EC will be able to share the burden of the family’s things.

    However (this is a cascade scenario), on the way back up, the dog gets sick. JG has to carry the dog, and EC takes the baby. Halfway up the switchbacks, JG is fatiguing. EC is concerned but thinks there may be something in the car that will help the situation. She wants to hurry, so she takes off the baby carrier, leaving the baby inside to keep her safe but cool as possible. JG keeps the dog with him on the leash so that the dog doesn’t try to follow EC. EC jogs up the switchbacks to the car, getting more water to wet down a towel to cool down the her family. After a full day of hiking, swimming, and now jogging, she is woozy. The heat of the day exacerbates her condition, and she never makes it back to her family. JG, the dog, and the baby each succumb to the heat in their own time.

    On Monday, the nanny arrives at the G-C home, but nobody is there; nor is the car. She tries to reach them, but no answer. She remembers the plan EC shared and thinks they may be hung up at the rental house with no cell reception. But after some hours, she reaches out to the house manager, who then attempts to reach the family as well. No luck. She reaches out to JG’s employer, who after following protocol, confirms that JG never checked in. The house manager then reaches out to SJ, who after doing his own checking around, calls the police, letting them know what the family’s plans are.

    The car is located in due time…

    All MOO, cobbled together from many posters’ ideas.
     
  7. Auntie Cipation

    Auntie Cipation Context Matters.

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    I like the outside-the-box thinking. We need to run ideas like this through our minds -- even if most imagined things don't seem to make sense, suddenly one scenario just might click.

    Can you elaborate on the bit I snipped? I'm confused about what specific logistics you are envisioning. Ie, does EC get dropped off at the trailhead to start her hike while JC and baby/dog go on to rental?

    Or are you envisioning that the rental is close enough to the trailhead so EC can walk there without adding miles to her hike? (I don't know where the rental is located but I think the nearest neighborhood is about two miles from the trailhead so if she was on foot she would be adding at least that to her planned hike, MOO).

    Your post did remind me that ATVs do travel not just along the upper part of the HC trail but also along the river (someone posted a video of this in earlier threads).

    So if the family did hike along the river there is a possibility they encountered others on ATV.

    On the other hand, when LE announced after a few days that they were no longer treating the case as a homicide, that tells me there weren't other footprints or tire tracks that seemed to be of the same time frame as the family's. At least that is my interpretation.

    I do see some [unlikely but possible] options for homicide still, but they would involve something indirect such as y'all have been speculating about, like someone tampering with their food or water supply, rather than a direct encounter on the trail.

    Overall I am still in the camp of heatstroke being the cause for all four souls. MOO
     
  8. rahod1

    rahod1 Well-Known Member

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    For me, trying to get more *granular* with particulars as to the movements of this family prior and during the hike, entails more speculation . I'm not critical of this, but I don't see how it will shed any light on what is already known. MOO>> I think what is already known is sufficient to establish HS as a cause and lack of evidence will rule out homicide and accidental poisoning. MOO
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2021
  9. rahod1

    rahod1 Well-Known Member

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    Double post
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2021
  10. Parsnip

    Parsnip Well-Known Member

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    RSBM

    Imo, she could have been dropped off at the trailhead, or she could have walked if the rental is close enough. JG would have had the car and the bulk of the belongings for the outing.

    I brought up the atv point because it helps me reconcile SJ’s two seemingly contradictory comments, per MSM that he knew they were going on a hike; but later says he thought the car might have gone off the trail. This suggests to me that he considered the possibility that they may have tried to take the truck on the trail imo.
     
  11. Parsnip

    Parsnip Well-Known Member

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    I understand your point of view. Tedious, right?

    For myself, when evaluating a case as an amateur, it helps if I can see a situation fully play out in my head. It helps me with the plausibility metric. MOO
     
  12. rahod1

    rahod1 Well-Known Member

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    Yes, there is always the urge to *fill in* and find closure as well. At the end of the day, we may never know what took place (in my mind 99%) and we'll be left with the fact a family died under very challenging conditions>>> HOT...LONG...STEEP...little shade...isolated with no way to communicate .
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2021
  13. Lex Parsimoniae

    Lex Parsimoniae Well-Known Member

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    I have addressed that. They left about 8am, it's about 3 miles down the Hites Cove Trail to the river. Going downhill is fast and easy, and that's actually a 4WD road, so I think they could have gotten to the bottom in about an hour. 3 mph is a reasonable pace in those conditions. It wasn't that hot at 9 am. There are trees along the river, so the next leg would have some shade. It's the last leg up the SLT that is the killer. I agree, like those women who turned back on the SLT, I would have realized "this is not a good idea", and turned back. Once you are at the bottom, you are stuck with that climb out. Again, maybe I'd start up the climb, either one, and realize "it's too hot, this is a very bad idea", and retreat to the river. Downstream, lots of people were frolicking in the river without harm, I'd do the same, keep the whole family cool. I'd be reluctant to drink the river water, but if you are out, you have no choice. Just pick the cleanest you can find. I'd wait as long as necessary for it too cool off enough to climb out, and I'd fill that camelback with river water. But they didn't do those things, and unless they recorded it on the phone we'll never know for sure why they pushed on up the SLT in the heat with insufficient water. My theory is they feared the toxic algae in the river and were running out of safe water in the camelback. The baby was suffering in the heat. They decide they have no choice but to get back to the safety of their truck which is only 3 miles away. Strong hikers in cool weather could do it in an hour. I'm not sure what difficulty you have with HS. One of those recent Death Valley HS deaths was on a fairly flat trail in 106F temperatures, and he wasn't carrying a baby. MOO.
     
  14. armchairagatha

    armchairagatha Well-Known Member

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    If the water was tainted, that would be an easy diagnosis from the tox reports. Given that toxicology turned up nothing, I think we can rule out the water bladder had tainted water in it. Also, if they rule out suicide, they can rule out homicide as well? After all, if they found poison in the water, it could have just easily come from a suicidal person as compared to a homicidal maniac. That tells me no poison was found. Where does that leave us? With the Occam’s razor of heat stroke.
     
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  15. armchairagatha

    armchairagatha Well-Known Member

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    I think most people can’t believe heatstroke was the COD because they can’t wrap their heads around the fact that this couple did this hike in the first place. But that is because those folks are not putting themselves in the Gerrishes shoes. My question to all the HS doubters is this - can you comprehend why certain people skydive, snowcamp, climb Mt Everest, tight rope walk between 2 skyscrapers in NYC etc? Or does that seem ‘crazy - no one would do that’ type of thing? MOO
     
  16. Lex Parsimoniae

    Lex Parsimoniae Well-Known Member

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    Their big problem was they went all the way to the bottom. It's difficult to see how they could accidentally do that, and he is said to have researched the HCT the day before. I'd say the SLT is worse to go up, because the HCT looks like it has a few trees left, but it's about the same climb back to the truck, and it's the climb that's deadly in that heat. People accidentally get lost, they don't accidentally navigate a loop hike said to be the toughest in the area. A lot of people seek out the toughest hike in their area, in my area you get a free hat if you make it. Ours is a lot harder than the HCT-SLT loop, except it's near the coast so it's never that hot.
     
  17. Toxicology is not complete AFAIK. I also think heat stroke was involved but am not ready to rule out some other factor until all the tox results are known.

    Having LE rule out several causes of death really does narrow the possibilities but it does not remove all potential for the deaths of the adults to be more complicated IMO.

    JMO
     
  18. Lex Parsimoniae

    Lex Parsimoniae Well-Known Member

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    It is very sad. I don't like to think about that part, too close to home since my wife and I hiked and backpacked with our baby and dog ~40 yrs ago. A broken ankle would have shown up in the autopsies. They had no wounds or injuries, according to the sheriff. Staying at the river and making use of the water would likely have saved their lives, hiking out at first light on Monday would have been the way to go if it stayed hot until dark, as it often does. MOO
     
  19. Excellent observation. I have said all along everyone weighs risk differently. I have hiked alone in the Rockies and every minute I was out there my risk averse mother thought I was crazy. I may be a little - lol - but mostly I just weighed the risk differently because being "out there" was worth it to me.

    That is why I cannot judge these two. Would I be out in that heat? No way. I've tried going 1/8 mile in 100 degrees in Texas & couldn't tolerate it. But projecting my experience onto them is not helpful IMO.

    We don't know when they left the river to take the S/L trail. The gaps created by the delay in reporting them missing are significant barriers to understanding time and cause of death. I think what we don't know is still significant. Open to opinions that differ but let's recognize that as a barrier to a quick and easy COD.

    Just my 2 cents.
     
  20. rahod1

    rahod1 Well-Known Member

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    HS in MOO was the *SINE QUA NON*in this tragedy. Are there other factors (accidental poisoning?).... we'll never know.
     
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