Last Texts Sent by Family Who Died on Northern California Hiking Trail

John Gerrish holding his baby daughter/John Gerrish and Ellen Chung Gerrish

“Can you help us. On Savage Lundy Trail heading back to Hites Cove Trail. No water (over) heating with baby,” was the text sent at 11:56 a.m. from Johnathon Gerrish’s phone, according to the MCSO. 

The Mariposa County Sheriffs Office released the chilling final text sent by the family that tragically died along a Northern California hiking trail in August that revealed a call for help and a baby in distress, according to a department statement.

“Can you help us? On Savage Lundy Trail heading back to Hites Cove Trail. No water (over) heating with baby.”

The text message was sadly never received, and according to officials, “was not successful due to not having cellular service in the area.”

Jonathan Gerrish, Ellen Chung, Aurelia “Miju” Chung-Gerrish, and their dog, Oksi, an 8-year-old Aussie-Akita mix, set out on a family hike through the Sierra National Forest, that turned fatal. Their mysterious deaths made national headlines. After a lengthy investigation, it was revealed that they died most likely trying to save their baby from the extreme heat, according to The San Francisco Chronicle, the first to report on the new details. 

Triple-digit temperatures that day that soared to nearly 110 degrees, the absence of shade, and lack of water were determined to be the cause of their tragic deaths, officials said.

The 77-page report obtained by The San Francisco Chronicle and Inside Edition Digital revealed that the baby likely died first and the parents made several attempts to help their child but were sadly unsuccessful.

In October 2021, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s released the pathologist report, which indicated that the manner and cause of death was hyperthermia and probable dehydration due to environmental exposure. Hyperthermia is when a body temperature is greatly above normal, Inside Edition Digital previously reported.

The findings were based on autopsy results, the investigation, and numerous toxicology-scientific test results, the MCSO said. 

Investigators believe the heat killed the family's dog, Oski, too.

On Thursday, the MCSO, the FBI, computer/phone forensic team, released the cellphone data from Jonathan Gerrish’s phone.

Officials said they were able to recreate the path and timeline based on the family’s GPS location. The details found on the phone, officials said, support the findings of a heat-related incident, according to the release.

Map that the Gerrish-Chung Family Hiked Along Before their Untimely Deaths along California's Sierra National Forest - MCSO

Gerrish and Chung took multiple photos throughout their hike, officials said, which is indicated on the map they provided.

Photo / Video 1- 7:44 am – Taken just a few yards from the trailhead

Photo 2- 8:00am- Trail Photo

Photo 3- 9:05 am- Photo of the River

Photo 4-12 - 9:35-9:39 am Photos of the river and of each other

Photo 13- 10:00 am Selfie style family photo

Photo 14- 10:16 am Selfie style family photo

Photo 15-16 -10:29am Creek / River photo

Photo 17- 12:25 pm- Screenshot of location from Trail App

Text Message Attempt:

The following text message was attempted from Johnathon Gerrish’s cellphone, according to the MCSO press release, but not successful due to not having cellular service in the area.

11:56 am- “{name redacted} can you help us. On Savage Lundy Trail heading back to Hites Cove Trail. No water or ver (over) heating with baby.”

Phone call Attempts:

The following phone calls were attempted to multiple numbers, not including 911. There is no service in the area, therefore the calls were never connected.

Call 1- 12:09:20pm

Call 2- 12:35:48pm

Call 3- 12:36:06pm

Call 4- 12:36:19pm

Call 5- 12:36:24pm

MSCO Sheriff Jeremy Briese expressed gratitude to their team and their partner agencies. 

“The cell phone data results were the last thing both the family and detectives were waiting on. The extracted information confirms our initial findings,” Briese said. “Their dedication has allowed us to close this case and answer lingering questions the family had, bringing them a little peace.”

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