MARIPOSA, Calif. (AP) — A Michigan tourist who tried to retrace the steps of a family who died during a grueling summer hike in northern California had to be rescued last week after getting lost, said said a frustrated sheriff.
The man, who has not been identified, was reported missing near the trail in Mariposa County where authorities last year found the bodies of Jonathan Gerrish, his wife, Ellen Chung, and their daughter. One-year-old Aurelia “Miju” Chung-Gerrish and their dog Oski, Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Briese said in a statement posted on social media.
The mysterious deaths made international headlines. More than 30 law enforcement agencies have thoroughly investigated — and ruled out — causes of death such as murder, lightning, poisoning, illegal drugs and suicide.
After a two-month investigation, authorities determined that the family and their dog had died of extreme heat exhaustion after running out of water while hiking on a sunny August afternoon when the Temperatures reached 109 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius) over the steep mountain terrain.
On June 29, a hiker called authorities after noticing the man’s car was still parked at the trailhead. The caller had met the Michigan tourist a day earlier when he told her he was investigating the death of the family because he had found the cause of death “strange”, Briese said.
A search and rescue team with the assistance of a helicopter from the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office found the man later that day.
The tourist was described as being in his 60s, about 1.68 meters (5’6″) tall and weighing 90 kilograms (200 pounds), and wearing sweatpants “on some of the hottest days we’ve seen this year,” he said.
He started his hike in an area marked with a closed gate and a “CLOSED” sign and as he finished the water from the two gallon water containers he was carrying and had to drink from water from the nearby river, Briese said.
After rescuers found him, he wanted to know if there were any updated algae tests on the water, he said.
He was treated for dehydration and his severely blistered feet before leaving the area in his rental car against medical advice, Briese said.
“It’s hard not to be mad at this particular rescue mission, I want people to come here and experience all of the amazing nature that Mariposa County has to offer,” Briese said.
“For someone to deliberately put themselves in harm’s way, use vital resources and potentially put the safety of our staff at risk to try and prove us wrong is infuriating and downright sickening,” he added.