• A family friend had filed a missing complaint Monday
  • The victims have been identified as John Gerrish, Ellen Chung and Muji
  • The cause of death was not known

A Northern California family of three was found dead Tuesday along with their dog on a hiking trail in a remote area of the Sierra National Forest.

Authorities said a family friend had filed a missing complaint with the police Monday evening, following which a search was launched.

The victims have been identified as John Gerrish, Ellen Chung and their 1-year-old daughter, Muji. The bodies of the couple and the toddler, along with their dog, were discovered near an area known as Devil’s Gulch in the Southfork of the Merced River, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office said, according to Your Central Valley.

Search teams initially located the family’s vehicle near a gate to the national forest leading to Hite Cove in the Jerseydale area.

“This is never the outcome we want or the news we want to deliver, my heart breaks for their family. Our Sheriff’s Chaplains and staff are working with their family and will continue to support them during this heartbreaking time," Sheriff Jeremy Briese said in a news release.

Deputies and the California Department of Justice are investigating the deaths.

Kristie Mitchell, a spokeswoman with the sheriff’s office, said there were no clear clues as to what caused the deaths. Detectives are treating the area as a hazmat scene for the safety of everyone responding. It could be a carbon monoxide 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 was quoted as saying, the Modesto Bee reported. “That is why we’re treating it as a hazmat situation. We just don’t know.”

The California Department of Justice is assisting the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office with the investigation.

The remote area where the bodies were found had no cellphone service, Mitchell added. Authorities are still working to retrieve the bodies from the area.

Details about what the family was doing at the scene and for how long they had been there were yet to be released.

Crime scene Pixabay