A family of three and their dog were found dead in a remote area of the Sierra National Forest after they were reported missing, California authorities said.
Identified as John Gerrish, Ellen Chung and one-year-old Muji, the family were found Tuesday night near an area known as Devil’s Gulch, on the Southfork of the Merced River, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office said.
Search teams had located the family’s vehicle, which was reported missing by a relative on Monday, not far from Devil’s Gulch.
It was unclear what caused the family or dog’s death, and investigators were treating the incident as a “forensic and hazmat investigation.”
A spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office, Kristie Mitchell, told CBS News: “It could be a carbon monoxide situation. That is one of the reasons we are treating it as a hazardous materials situation.”
The area where the family was found, Mitchell said, does not have cell phone service. It was near the Hite Cove trail, known for its wildflowers.
“This is never the outcome we want or the news we want to deliver, my heart breaks for his family,” Sheriff Jeremy Brierse added in a statement.
“Our sheriff’s chaplains and staff are working with his family and will continue to support them during this heartbreaking time.”
A family friend told Fox26 News they were last heard from on Sunday when they shared a photo of the backpack on their social media accounts.
It comes after miners in Colorado died after being exposed to fatal levels of carbon monoxide following an explosion in 2019, in an event that sickened 19 other people. Mariposa County authorities have not ruled out a similar event in the deaths.