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

Status
Not open for further replies.

Bekind89

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 28, 2021
Messages
601
Reaction score
4,267
Quote: "I also don't think they blithely underestimated the hike or simply thought they could do the loop in spite of the heat, but I do think they didn't assess the grave risk of something going wrong on their easy planned hike in such severe conditions.

A similar thought for me in a comparably risky situation might be. "
I think this is the answer as to how this could happen. As Auntie has said, we will never what happened that day to keep them out there too long, but I truly feel something did. I have never believed they planned to be out there hiking in the heat that long. The amount of water they carried that day tells us that. Jmo
 

rahod1

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 22, 2021
Messages
274
Reaction score
2,090
she might well have dashed off unencumbered to the car, then tried to return to her family, with some necessity. If I put myself and my dh, child, and dog in their position, under those circumstances, I could see it unfolding that way. Ultimately, the heat would have caught up to each family member in his/her own time. Moo.
.
Possible....I do think EC was trying to forge ahead with JG and infant still alive. I would think IF she made it to the truck, she would have tried to GET HELP rather than hike back down. It's 1 1/2 miles back down. I guess it depends on WHAT they had in the truck that could save them? If she was found facing UP the trail, that could indicate she was still going UP not down. MOO
 

Parsnip

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 16, 2015
Messages
198
Reaction score
1,158
Possible....I do think EC was trying to forge ahead with JG and infant still alive. I would think IF she made it to the truck, she would have tried to GET HELP rather than hike back down. It's 1 1/2 miles back down. I guess it depends on WHAT they had in the truck that could save them? If she was found facing UP the trail, that could indicate she was still going UP not down. MOO
Idk, @rahod1 . I think the scene could be interpreted a number of ways. Was she headed up? Was she headed back down the switchbacks? What did she have with her?

But if there were some nefarious influence, including some sort of confrontation, I would expect defensive wounds on one or both of the adults, assuming they/he/she understood the implications of the confrontation. Again, moo. Given what has been shared, accident seems most likely to me. Moo.
 

wary

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2014
Messages
3,853
Reaction score
25,236
I agree with you that they may have died from HS. The problem is exactly what you have pointed out - the couples you mention realised they were ill prepared and discontinued their plans in order to return to safety. My problem is - why would Jon and Ellen be any less diligent?

MOO

That the steep uphill climb back to their car made retreat impossible, once they were weakened by the heat?

That, for obvious reasons, there were no other people on the trail to help them?

And we know that using their phone to call for help was impossible.

MOO
 

rahod1

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 22, 2021
Messages
274
Reaction score
2,090
MOO

That the steep uphill climb back to their car made retreat impossible, once they were weakened by the heat?

That, for obvious reasons, there were no other people on the trail to help them?

And we know that using their phone to call for help was impossible.

MOO
Yes, they were essentially trapped in the inferno. Beyond the point of no return. MOO
 

RickshawFan

Verified Outdoor Recreation Specialist
Joined
Jun 9, 2013
Messages
7,469
Reaction score
29,080
Another thing I find puzzling is that why would experienced hikers take only one water bladder for the entire family. Like I stated before more questions than answers. Yes it is ambiguous that we don't know what they carried with them. However, if they had for example small boxed juice drinks or energy drinks that would say that perhaps they intended to hike some ways. But, one water bladder doesn't make sense to me unless they only intended to be hiking a short distance or at a slow pace. They would also want to keep it light even if they intended a short hike. So I can't see them taking the juices if it was short and sweet. Maybe if they were distributed between them. But even then the amount of juice drinks plus one water bladder wouldn't be enough for a longer hike. MOO.
IMO their experience was more on guided trips. They might not have known to take more water. A more telling indication might be dirty diapers.
There’s no information that she was carrying a pack. IIRC
My basic opinion is they didn’t plan on the whole loop, but improvised when they got to the river. They had to improvise IMO because they didn’t have a map.
 
Last edited:

RickshawFan

Verified Outdoor Recreation Specialist
Joined
Jun 9, 2013
Messages
7,469
Reaction score
29,080
Possibly they had planned to complete the hike in the morning before it got hot. And something happened to cause a delay. They could have taken a wrong turn. Maybe the hike was going well and they decided to extend the distance they had originally planned, then they were too far away when it quickly became oppressively hot.

As I have mentioned before, once heat exhaustion begins confusion takes over. It could be that the baby started having severe heat problems, the adults were as well and he wasn’t able to carry the baby. They decided he should sit down next to the baby while she went for help. If they were suffering from heat it could have made perfect sense.
They couldn’t have completed the hike before it got too hot. It was too hot within an hour or so.
 

RickshawFan

Verified Outdoor Recreation Specialist
Joined
Jun 9, 2013
Messages
7,469
Reaction score
29,080
BBM

This is so true.

I hiked a small mountain in the Adirondacks this weekend (anyone not familiar with NY mountains, just know that they aren't mammoth in height, but they are typically straight up climbing over some incredibly rugged terrain and sure ain't for sissies...) and I took care to look at each person I passed, just to see how prepared they were. I was astounded -- out of the 58 people we passed on the trail, less than half were wearing hiking boots/shoes, only 23 people were carrying a visible water bottle, and 18 were carrying backpacks (there were several young women with tiny little packs that would hold a phone and maybe some lip gloss, but not a bottle of water), and we encountered 3 women carrying infants less than six months old (my cousin will talk to anyone who stands still long enough and asked the age of each baby.) Of the 3 babies, 1 was in a front carrier, one was tied to the woman by a wrap-thingy, and one was just cradled in the woman's arms. None of these women were wearing hiking boots/shoes. I spoke to the woman with the six-week old baby (front carrier), and she said that she didn't dare take her eyes off her feet. We also ran into three male solo hikers who had enormous packs and were outfitted like they intended on climbing Everest, but hey, overkill is good sometimes.

I guess I just mean to say that people take risks and make poor judgement calls every single day, and most of the time they come out none the worse for wear. I believe that this family did just that, and unfortunately those decisions had fatal consequences. I don't believe that whatever happened was nefarious in nature, I think they just badly underestimated the conditions and succumbed to the elements.

MOO
That’s my experience hiking in the NE as well. After being in the PNW for years, I’m shocked how little hikers take, no room for a jacket or 10 essentials, water, lunch.. Wearing jeans, floppy sneakers, singlets for mountain hikes. In the White Mountains, with their brutal weather and sudden storms.
And don’t even get me started on “ultralighters” who overnight and depend on everyone else to do the heavy lifting when they show up without the necessaries. They depend on everyone else to supply them with things they didn’t want to bring, move over in shelters or yield their spots, because the “ultralighters” don’t want to weigh themselves down with even a rudimentary tarp tent. I find this very selfish.
All of these folks put SAR at risk. IME.
 
Last edited:

HannahJJJ

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 4, 2021
Messages
59
Reaction score
288
It doesn’t actually say who reported seeing the photo - just that it was seen by somebody. RH is quoted as saying very little - just that they hiked on weekends and were a nice couple. SJ says he can’t believe what’s happened and ‘guesses’ it must have been a day hike - he doesn’t actually know anything. He was on holiday in Croatia but posted a message on FB asking ‘if anyone had seen Jon and Ellen in the past couple of days’ on the same day their bodies were found. We don’t know who saw the vehicle but assume it was a reliable source. There’s actually very little information and lots of red herrings put out by
the media imo. MOO

Usually best buddies, the woman's close girlfriends, family will make statements. Nothing except a couple of statements from RH and SJ, also a female real estate agent, none of whom appear to be close friends. It is all so "quiet". Moo, all Moo.
 

IceIce9

Verified EMT
Joined
Feb 17, 2017
Messages
4,100
Reaction score
39,272
They couldn’t have completed the hike before it got too hot. It was too hot within an hour or so.
It’s possible they intended to complete a shorter hike, and for some reason (missed a trail marker for the shorter trail?) ended up on a much longer hike. Without a map they wouldn’t be able to determine whether it would be better to keep going forward or turn around and retrace their steps, after realizing they were on the wrong trail.

Missing a trail sign happens often, most hikers have experienced it. But usually the conditions aren’t so brutal that it becomes a deadly mistake.
 

Pumphouse363

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 17, 2021
Messages
234
Reaction score
974
Preparing for heat is difficult.

I hiked out to Nobles Camp, where Mostly Harmless died, last November. 5 miles in and 5 miles out, no big deal.

It had been a horrible summer and fall and there was 10's of inches of rain so the whole area was flooded. It's a swamp after all. I prepared by taking a full 3L bladder and 2 separate 1L bottles of water. One I kept with me and the other I dropped 2.5 miles in, so I'd have a water stash for the way back.

It was a brutal hike. The bugs laughed at the Off and I was bitten relentlessly. Made it to Nobles, it was easy to find the campsite. It was treed well and I decided to stay a couple hours til the sun was back a bit. I ate lunch, rested, searched around quite a bit and started back. Around 6 miles in (5 out, 1 back) I was out of water. Bone dry, the 3L bladder was done as was the 1L bottle. I had to get to that stashed bottle to make it back. Although I stashed it by a trail sign, I had difficulty finding it. I eventually did find it and drank almost the whole thing by the time I got to my truck.

I was fortunate enough to prepare for the worst, and it saved me. I've hiked after running out of water before and it's not easy. I've altered a couple of preps since then. Don't want to be hiking without water in the heat, ever again. For me once was enough, for them maybe it was once was once too much.
Thanks for sharing this experience. My only question is, ‘would you have taken a 12 month old baby and a dog?’
 

MrsEmmaPeel

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 16, 2018
Messages
514
Reaction score
4,192
Usually best buddies, the woman's close girlfriends, family will make statements. Nothing except a couple of statements from RH and SJ, also a female real estate agent, none of whom appear to be close friends. It is all so "quiet". Moo, all Moo.

This quietness may be the effect of several factors. Jon's family is British. They are far more reticent, in my experience, than middle class Americans. (Witness Gabby's family holding press conferences sporting matching tattoos.) Not to mention Jon's family has been kept away by covid restrictions.
Ellen's family is Asian. Similar cultural differences. IMO, these two cultures are more circumspect, less attention-seeking.
Then we have the area. This is not Marin County or Santa Barbara. This is akin to Appalachia or the Salton Sea, imo. There are the gentrifiers who come in and buy up property because it's "cheap," and there are the locals struggling to earn a living remodeling, cleaning those properties. It takes time -- years and years-- to build community. To build a network of like-minded friends. Often, this does not happen until a child goes to school. J and E chose a place that can be as isolated and remote as the desert.
Finally, we have no idea what they struggled with as a couple, as new parents, as new residents of a rural, backward place. One may put a social media spin on it. A happy face. But that's not always how it is, inside.
 

Pumphouse363

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 17, 2021
Messages
234
Reaction score
974
It’s possible they intended to complete a shorter hike, and for some reason (missed a trail marker for the shorter trail?) ended up on a much longer hike. Without a map they wouldn’t be able to determine whether it would be better to keep going forward or turn around and retrace their steps, after realizing they were on the wrong trail.

Missing a trail sign happens often, most hikers have experienced it. But usually the conditions aren’t so brutal that it becomes a deadly mistake.

MOO I understand what you’re saying but I wonder if I’m correct in my thinking here…
The vehicle was seen heading towards the trailhead at 7.45am on Sunday morning. If they headed towards Hites Cove from the point where their vehicle was discovered, they would possibly reach Marble Point (just over a mile away) after 25 minutes or so? According to the nearest weather centre the temperature at 7.51am was 77F By 8.51am it had risen to 85F and continued to rise to a high of 109F at 2.51pm.
Surely they would still have time to hike back up to their car at Marble Point having realised the heat was only going to increase and they’d have an even bigger hike back up if they continued?
Wouldn’t the dog and the baby have shown signs of heat distress long before they got down to the river? Marble Point is a great vantage point to view the surroundings and consider options. I’m trying to understand this from their POV but the fact there is a dog and a baby to consider is beyond my comprehension. The choice of this hike, on this day, under those conditions makes absolutely no sense.
Sorry to continue to labour the point. I really do appreciate all the comments and ideas submitted by everyone and hope we all get some answers we can accept very soon.
 
Last edited:

lotus777

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 4, 2021
Messages
80
Reaction score
595
If heatstroke is as horrific as I've read, it would seem the baby could be dead, and the parents so disoriented, their last thoughts, if anything, were of their own survival. I assume a person would dissolve into a primal state before shutdown. Seeking relief at all costs. This is the harsh reality, imo. G collapsed, E stumbling forward. Baby, dog dead.

Right (sadly), and it would also explain why the baby was in the carrier (which has been perplexing to some).
 

IceIce9

Verified EMT
Joined
Feb 17, 2017
Messages
4,100
Reaction score
39,272
I understand what you’re saying but I wonder if I’m correct in my thinking here…
The vehicle was seen heading towards the trailhead at 7.45am on Sunday morning. If they headed towards Hites Cove from the point where their vehicle was discovered, they would possibly reach Marble Point (just over a mile away) after 25 minutes or so? According to the nearest weather centre the temperature at 7.51am was 77F By 8.51am it had risen to 85F and continued to rise to a high of 109F at 2.51pm.
Surely they would still have time to hike back up to their car at Marble Point having realised the heat was only going to increase and they’d have an even bigger hike back up if they continued?
Wouldn’t the dog and the baby have shown signs of heat distress long before they got down to the river? Marble Point is a great vantage point to view the surroundings and consider options. I’m trying to understand this from their POV but the fact there is a dog and a baby to consider is beyond my comprehension. The choice of this hike, on this day, under those conditions makes absolutely no sense.
Sorry to continue to labour the point. I really do appreciate all the comments and ideas submitted by everyone and hope we all get some answers we can accept very soon.
Unpopular opinion here: I often see people taking young babies on hikes and I don’t see the point. I can understand taking toddlers, but young babies usually don’t look like they are getting anything out of the experience. Except perhaps a sunburn. MOO

And I often see dogs on hikes that look miserable when it is too hot. People should consider that dogs pads can get injured on hot sand, dirt, or path. If it is too hot for you to go barefoot it is too uncomfortable for your dog. MOO
 

Karuna

Verified Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Joined
Oct 8, 2021
Messages
26
Reaction score
244
MOO I understand what you’re saying but I wonder if I’m correct in my thinking here…
The vehicle was seen heading towards the trailhead at 7.45am on Sunday morning. If they headed towards Hites Cove from the point where their vehicle was discovered, they would possibly reach Marble Point (just over a mile away) after 25 minutes or so? According to the nearest weather centre the temperature at 7.51am was 77F By 8.51am it had risen to 85F and continued to rise to a high of 109F at 2.51pm.
Surely they would still have time to hike back up to their car at Marble Point having realised the heat was only going to increase and they’d have an even bigger hike back up if they continued?
Wouldn’t the dog and the baby have shown signs of heat distress long before they got down to the river? Marble Point is a great vantage point to view the surroundings and consider options. I’m trying to understand this from their POV but the fact there is a dog and a baby to consider is beyond my comprehension. The choice of this hike, on this day, under those conditions makes absolutely no sense.
Sorry to continue to labour the point. I really do appreciate all the comments and ideas submitted by everyone and hope we all get some answers we can accept very soon.
RSBM @Pumphouse I think you have to account for the fact that having a baby slows everything down. So it could have been quite a bit later than you're suggesting when they got started and thus to Marble point. Also, what others have suggested about something unexpected occurring could have slowed them down too. Even something like a blister or an old injury (bum knee) affecting walking speed, etc.

Regarding the baby still being in the pack. Agree with others about her safety and JG's possible/likely (moo) being disabled - but also she was a year old and could certainly crawl, if not walk, and keeping her in the carrier could very well have been for her own safety too.

I, too, struggle with how they decided to do that hike, on that day, with those dependents. Although, I don't think I would ever have done any portion of it, myself, I keep coming back to the possibility that they intended something shorter and something derailed things (like the possibilities, for example, detailed by @Auntie Cipation). Also, even though I wouldn't have taken that hike with my kids (or by myself for that matter, not a fan of even less extreme heat for hiking), I will say this case and this thread has opened my eyes to HS risks. I've backpacked a fair amount (Kauai, New Zealand, Canada, Colorado, Washington, California) and there are still things I don't know. Of course there are. And that's true for parenting too. I've definitely been humbled as a hiker and a parent, especially with my second kid, realizing things I did with my first kid that I know better about now. I'm saying that to say, if they had a blindspot in judgment and they intended something shorter and they encountered something unexpected it seems completely reasonable the cascade of events lead to their tragic deaths. I know we can't fathom them taking their dependents out under those conditions, but what if they really intended to be back shortly and just had a human moment of underestimating the heat and how quickly it could disable them? We don't want to believe this, I think, because it exposes all our humanity, fallibility, and fragility. It asks us to sit with the discomfort of randomness and the tragedy of preventable mistakes.
 

Karuna

Verified Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Joined
Oct 8, 2021
Messages
26
Reaction score
244
Not sure the rules about quoting social media, so won't quote directly, but has anyone ventured over to the Mariposa County Sheriff's Facebook page? They had a press release about the case on September 30th. In reading the comments, I noticed one poster, in particular, "Chuck Stone" who claims to be a former CALFIRE captain and suffered HS with his dogs and wife on the Savage-Lundy in similar extreme heat and almost died. He posted a few times in response to others, if you're interested in reading his comments. If you take him as credible, (IMO) it makes accidental HS seem very plausible given EC/JG's situation and various factors. And also interesting that an experienced CALFIRE captain could find themselves similarly caught off guard and vulnerable. ETA: tried to link the FB page, but couldn't.
 

Pumphouse363

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 17, 2021
Messages
234
Reaction score
974
Unpopular opinion here: I often see people taking young babies on hikes and I don’t see the point. I can understand taking toddlers, but young babies usually don’t look like they are getting anything out of the experience. Except perhaps a sunburn. MOO

And I often see dogs on hikes that look miserable when it is too hot. People should consider that dogs pads can get injured on hot sand, dirt, or path. If it is too hot for you to go barefoot it is too uncomfortable for your dog. MOO
IKWYM and I agree that dogs and children should be better protected from extreme heat. But I Think it’s great for parents to get their child familiar with the outdoors as much as possible and as young as possible - within reason. Miju was 12 months old, used to the outdoors (local residents say they often saw Jon out and about with her) and she was able to walk. Obviously her walking abilities would be minimal but she could still toddle off if allowed. I think she would have enjoyed outdoor experiences with her parents - but not in the heat of that particular weekend. MOO
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top