Lightning possibly caused death of family hiking near Yosemite

Authorities are now looking into whether lightning strikes caused the death of a family found dead along a popular wildflower trail near Yosemite last month.

The bodies of John Gerrish, Ellen Chung, their 1-year-old daughter Muji, and their dog were found on August 17 in the Devil's Gulch area of the Merced River.

The New York Times reported that authorities are exploring whether lightning played a role in the family's demise.

Last week the Mariposa County Sheriff's office ruled out exposure to chemicals from a mine along the trail, as well as the use of a gun or other weapon. They are still investigating whether a toxic algae bloom from the Merced River may have led to their demise.

"This is a very unusual, unique situation," said Kristie Mitchell, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office. "There were no signs of trauma, no obvious cause of death. There was no suicide note."

Authorities recently closed 28 miles of the Merced River, including campgrounds and recreation sites, because they found toxic algae in the waterway.

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