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. MrsEmmaPeel

    MrsEmmaPeel Well-Known Member

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    I've loved poring over the official maps of MariposaTrails.org, the Upper Merced River Watershed Council, and others. It's taught me how difficult it is to navigate the area because of all the different jurisdictions: 2 different national forests, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Yosemite National Park, Mariposa County. I've found multiple Hites Cove Roads and Hites Cove Trails. The Hites Cove Trail we've been discussing is actually in two different National Forests, which does not tend its trails according to MariposaTrails.org: ". . .only 25% of trails are being maintained by the US Forest Service; in Mariposa, none of the non-motorized forest service trails are being maintained by the forest service.

    This shows how difficult it is to get accurate, clear information about any one of these trails, not to mention how to know which trails are in good shape or not. As we've learned, AllTrails is useless for this area.

    Buried in the MariposaTrails.org website, I found this about the South Fork Trail: "Lastly, this canyon can get extremely hot in the late Spring, Summer and early fall, and is not recommended for use during these seasons." (bolding, me)

    I'd never thought of the canyon and Merced River area being hotter than the trail! I'm not a hiker, and the idea of the canyon being lower seems to me it would be cooler but it's just the opposite. So if they'd hiked down and felt fine, the heat would have built and built so that in the canyon they'd suddenly be hit by it like a tidal wave. Is that right?
     


  2. NSamuelle

    NSamuelle Well-Known Member

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    Interesting article about why toxicology results take so long (although the article defines the “so long” timeframe as 4-6 weeks, not the 9 week mark we will soon surpass). I haven’t been able to find any explanation for that delay. The Truth About Toxicology Tests

    "Four to six weeks is pretty standard," Magnani says of the time line for forensic toxicology testing. Besides the time needed for painstaking analysis and confirmation, she says, there could be a backlog of tests that need to be done at a particular laboratory.

    "Each one should be handled thoroughly, whether they are a celebrity or not," she says.
     
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  3. Auntie Cipation

    Auntie Cipation Context Matters.

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    I would suspect the only reason the heat in the canyon is mentioned as opposed to heat along the trail(s) is because the river would be assumed to be people's destination where they would spend more time, with the trails just being how they get there. Well, I guess also because before the fire (assuming that text was written before the fire) the trails might have been shaded enough to temper the heat just a little.

    But this summer I would have expected the trails to be hotter than the river canyon. JMO though.
     
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  4. Lex Parsimoniae

    Lex Parsimoniae Well-Known Member

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    If you use Google Earth you can see all the routes for yourself. (Caveat: the images are before the 2018 fire, which burned the brush and many trees) The Hites Cove OHV rd descends to the river and runs along the south bank to Hite Cove. That part along the river looks flat and easy going. Between Hite Cove and Hwy 120 is the Hite Cove Trail, which runs along the north side of the South Fork Merced River. That has a lot of up and down, less steep than the Savage Lundy, but that up and down adds up. It's pretty exposed to the sun too. So I'd say it's easier, but a lot longer, and if you persisted in hiking it in the same heat, you wouldn't survive. The big advantage is with access to the river you would hopefully stop hiking and make use of it to cool and hydrate. Here's a photo of the Hite Cove area, showing the OHV rd and the trail going to hwy 120. I rotated and tilted the view, so west is at top.
     

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  5. Lex Parsimoniae

    Lex Parsimoniae Well-Known Member

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    I would add that logically, if suicide is ruled out, so is murder-suicide. I never considered either of those at all likely, but it's good to have them ruled out.
     
  6. rahod1

    rahod1 Well-Known Member

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    If you click on the hiker at the head of SL, you get it identified as Hite Cove/Savage Lundy trail head.

    Hite Cove/Savage Lundy Trailhead
     
  7. NSamuelle

    NSamuelle Well-Known Member

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    According to Google, “In California, a death certificate must be filed with the local registrar within eight days of the death and before the body is buried or cremated. (See California Health & Safety Code § 102775.)”

    Logistically, I assume that means certificates do not always list the COD, just the fact of death - but I’ll try to find a source for that and edit this accordingly.

    edit: in Sacramento County in CA (and I would assume all counties are subject to the same CA law at issue), the COD will be listed on the death certificate as “pending” until it is determined. Frequently Asked Questions

    “If established after a preliminary Coroner’s investigation, forensic examination of the decedent’s body and review of medical records, the cause of death will be available to the relatives within 24 to 48 hours after the death is reported to the Coroner’s Office.

    If further testing and investigation is required, it could take several months before a cause of death is available. The death certificate will show “Pending” in the cause of death section.”
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2021
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  8. Pumphouse363

    Pumphouse363 Well-Known Member

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    Thank you
     
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  9. Lex Parsimoniae

    Lex Parsimoniae Well-Known Member

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    The "adiabatic lapse rate" is why it is pleasant to backpack high in the Sierras while nearby the Central Valley swelters in 100F+ temps- it gets cooler as you go higher, or hotter as you descend. The adiabatic lapse varies depending on humidity. For dry air it is 5.4 °F per 1,000 ft (9.8 °C/km), for very moist air 2.7 °F/1,000 ft, (5 °C/km), about 3.5°F per 1,000 ft is typical. So it was probably ~7F cooler at their truck than it was at the same time 2000' below at the river. There are other factors too, you can feel the heat radiating off of the rocks in a narrow canyon.
     
  10. Han

    Han Well-Known Member

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    At the bottom of the canyon the temperature is hotter, that’s correct. (I learned this from the Grand Canyon when Sarah Beadle was lost.)

     
  11. Han

    Han Well-Known Member

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    As a survivor of family trauma I often find myself trying to beat history. You know, if only this had happened differently. Or why? As if knowing why would change anything. That’s what I’ve done here and I see that it’s disrespectful on my part. JMO

    For reasons I will never know JG and EG set out to hike the loop that day. The evidence convinces me of that. They almost finished just 1 1/2 miles from the safety of the truck, trying as hard as they could to save their family.

    Only because they didn’t make it their deaths became a matter for the Sheriff to sort out. If anything has been gained, I hope it’s something good. And something that doesn’t take a whole life time to understand.
     
  12. rahod1

    rahod1 Well-Known Member

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    I would speculate (MOO) the heat at the point where they were found on SL was well above 104F when they succumbed. No shade.... hiking UP a steep slope with baby and dog in tow. The *PERFECT STORM* for a disaster. They were literally trapped inside an OVEN on that slope. Even SAR had *issues* themselves with personnel and rescue dog.
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2021
  13. sasha17

    sasha17 Curiouser & curiouser

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    At this point, I would be surprised if this story ended up being anything other than what you just described.
     
  14. Sunny Day

    Sunny Day Well-Known Member

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    I wonder why it is so difficult for them to definitively determine the cause of death? I realize they have stated what it ISN'T, but no clue as to what it is. Will they ultimately just decide it was the heat by process of eliminating everything else?
     
  15. rahod1

    rahod1 Well-Known Member

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    For me, the most painful thing about this tragedy is the loss of the infant. Not that the loss parents and dog aren't tragic, but the dagger to the heart get's a vicious twist in this particular saga and that's what makes this so hard to accept. I keep wondering what this family went through and it was horrific. You never know when your time is up, and for this family it was far too soon. As some have stated here>>> Hopefully a valuable lesson will come of this. RIP
     
  16. fred&edna

    fred&edna Well-Known Member

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    That's my guess.
     
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  17. rahod1

    rahod1 Well-Known Member

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    In most cases HS is determined by a process of elimination, since there are few tell tale signs. I posted a link some time ago on this.
     
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  18. everybodhi

    everybodhi Well-Known Member

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    They are using quite a few agencies outside the normal practice of the Maricopa Sheriff/coroner/medical examiner's offices, coordinated by the CA DOJ, including the CDC, state water control board, multiple private labs and the Office of Environmental Health Hazards Assessment. The dog was originally sent to University of CA in Davis for necropsy, then several samples were sent to multiple other labs for testing.
    They are being very thorough with three separate bodies and a canine which is quite different than a single HS death, I think that's also dragging out the time required for results. Jmo

    Mariposa Sheriff’s Office Update on the Gerrish – Chung Family | Sierra News Online
     
  19. Lex Parsimoniae

    Lex Parsimoniae Well-Known Member

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    That is pretty much correct, from what we've read, it is a diagnosis by exclusion, "A heat-related cause of death may be assumed if the investigations provide compelling evidence of continuous exposure to a hot environment, and fail to identify an independent cause of death". Here's an article on heat stroke, scroll down to "post mortem findings". Also, they went hiking on Sunday, and presumably died sometime in the early afternoon. They weren't found until Tuesday at 11 am, and the bodies weren't removed until Wed afternoon, so they were exposed to extremely hot weather for approximately 3 full days. I would guess that made it very difficult to distinguish the effects of perimortem heat vs postmortem heat. They got search warrants and have done a lot of tests, and the only things they have announced are negative results. You get quick results when the victim has fatal gunshot wounds or a lethal overdose, but when there's nothing obvious... MOO
     
  20. Officer Dibble

    Officer Dibble Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for sharing this.
     
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