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A BRIT Google engineer, his wife and their baby daughter may have been killed by carbon monoxide on remote hike, officials have said.
Jonathan Gerrish, Ellen Chung and their one-year-old daughter Muji were found on Tuesday evening in a remote area of the Sierra National Forest.
Police in California called their deaths a "very unusual, unique situation", adding "there were no signs of trauma, no obvious cause of death…no suicide note."
Friend Steve Jeffe called their deaths "freaky and strange."
Kristie Mitchell, a spokeswoman for Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office, said officers are treating the scene as a hazmat scene.
The area where the bodies were found sits atop multiple disused gold mines with the local sheriff's office suggesting carbon monoxide effusion from the mines as a possible cause of death.
“It could be a carbon monoxide situation. That’s one of the reasons why we’re treating it as a hazmat situation,” she said.
“Coming across a scene where everyone involved, including the family dog that is deceased, that is not a typical thing that we have seen or other agencies have seen,” Mitchell added.
“That is why we’re treating it as a hazmat situation. We just don’t know.
“At this point we can’t rule out anything."
Another explanation for the "bizarre situation" could be the family's possible exposure to toxic algae, police reported.
The recovery team will be "taking precautions" for any poisonous gases in the area, officials said although none have yet been found.
Carbon monoxide poisoning was responsible for killing two miners and sickening 19 others at a gold and silver mine in Colorado in 2013, Reuters reports.
A family friend said that she last saw the family on Saturday and were reported missing by a relative on Monday.
Jeffe told The Sacramento Bee: “You had to figure it wasn’t an overnight hike, because it’s been hot and they had the baby with them.
"Jon was supposed to work Monday and never showed up. That raised more concerns.”
"A super generous, sweet and loving couple that was devoted to their daughter."
Authorities located the family's car near the Sierra National forest gate the same day.
Their bodies were located two miles from their car in an area with no phone reception.
NO CLEAR PICTURE
Sheriff Jeremy Briese said the scene "does not indicate a clear picture of what occurred or a clear cause of death".
The last contact they made was a photo they uploaded on Sunday at 6.45am.
Authorities said the family went missing at 11pm on Monday.
“This is never the outcome we want or the news we want to deliver, my heart breaks for their family," Sheriff Jeremy Briese said.
"Our Sheriff’s Chaplains and staff are working with their family and will continue to support them during this heartbreaking time."
Gerrish, 45, was a Google software engineer and originally from Lancaster, while his wife Chung, 31, was from Orange, California.
The couple are said to have lived in San Francisco before moving to Mariposa.
Gerrish's father Peter, 70, said: 'The family are just in shock – heartbroken.
"We haven't heard anything more."
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