Message after message the tragedy of the Californian family who died of thirst in the Sierra Nevada

Of Guido Olimpio

On August 15, the mysterious death of a family with a one-year-old girl: deaths of heat and dehydration in the mountains in August, with only two and a half liters of water. The analysis of their smartphones describes a trip that turns into tragedy

The telephone of the victims has “spoken” telling the tragedy of a family. From carefree photos along a Californian trail to the desperate messages that no one could receive. A story that ended dramatically.

On August 15, Jonathan Gerrish, 45, his wife Ellen, 35, their one-year-old daughter Miju, and dog Oski, they leave for a hike in the Sierra Nevada. They are experts but carry little water – just two and a half liters – and underestimate the heat as well as the changes in altitude. When they move in the morning still fresh, a favorable situation that becomes a nightmare as the hours pass and the terrain changes. Impervious, no shade, the trail made of ups and downs. They will be found lifeless two days later, the bodies scattered a few tens of meters away, with the small held in the arms of the father. It will take weeks for the investigations to establish the causes with certainty, a period of time filled with all sorts of hypotheses: toxic substances released from a mine, poisonous algae from a pond, contaminated water, lightning. In the end the verdict was simple and hard: the heat crushed them – it was over 40 degrees at the peak -, scarce supplies and recklessness. Now the Sheriff, after analyzing Jonathan’s cell phone, he reconstructed the key moments in detail. It is the photos taken by the couple that reveal it.

7.44: short video at the beginning of the path
8.00: photo of the path
9.00: photo of the river
9.35: photos of the river and of them together
10.00: family selfie
10.16: another familiar selfie
10.29: photo of a stream
11.56: sending a text message. “…you can help us. We are on the Savage Lundy Trail headed to Hites trail. No water. A lot of warmth, with the little girl “. But the message does not go out, there is no reception.
12.09: attempted call.
12.25: photo of the place where they are (perhaps he wanted to send it with a text message to give position, ed)
12.35: another attempt to call
12.36: two attempts to call always to numbers not connected to 911 (emergency service, ed)

These are the last known gestures, linked to the data left in the memory of the family’s cell phone. The chronology clearly shows how their walk becomes hell around 11 o’clock. There are no warning signs first. And when they realize they have fallen into a trap too late. The epilogue will be discovered only after the babysitter, not seeing them return home from the short vacation, has notified the authorities and the searches have started.

The police also released an itinerary of the last, tragic day of the Gerrish family.


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