An additional probability is now under investigation to determine the cause of death of a family found lifeless in the Devil’s Gulch area in the south fork of the Merced River last August 17.
Included in the dead persons recovered were 45-year-old John Gerrish; her wife, 30-year-old Ellen Chung; their 1-year-old daughter, Miju; and their family dog, Oski, in a case tagged by a sheriff as the most mysterious he encountered in the span of his career.
The uncertainty of the cause of death of the victims caused the responding teams to treat the scene as a hazmat situation. Investigation has gone down to toxic algae, murder, and even harmful mine gasses.
Another possibility has surfaced – this time, lightning strikes – the New York Times feature on the family said.
The Times reported that law enforcement is “investigating possible lightning strikes in the area” when the family members were found dead.
The National Weather Service said being hit by lightning is “primarily an injury to the nervous system, often with brain injury and nerve injury. Serious burns seldom occur.” Death caused by lightning strikes can be caused by cardiac arrest. While deaths are rare, the 1989 to 2018 data from the weather service said 10 percent of people struck by lightning died. Per year, there is an average of 43 fatalities in the country.
Some of the possibilities that caused the death of the family have already been eliminated, like acute trauma like gunshot wounds and stabbing, according to the autopsy results. Toxic gasses from a mine yard were also ruled out, SFGATE reported.
Last week, officials from the Sierra National Forest announced the shutting down of the Merced River Recreational site “due to unknown hazards found in and near the Savage Lundy Trail.” The closure will last until Sept. 26 or can be lifted at an earlier date “if conditions change” around the place.