SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – The mysterious deaths of a wandering family and their dog in Northern California have prompted federal officials to close 28 miles along the Merced River, where high levels of toxic algae were detected.
The Bureau of Land Management closed campsites and recreational areas along the river, between the towns of Briceburg and Bagby, on Friday after receiving test results of water samples downstream from where the family died.
Algae flowers can be formed in horizontal, low and warm.
“These algae flowers can produce toxins that can make humans and pets extremely ill,” Elizabeth Meyer-Shields, a BLM field manager, said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor the presence of the algae and look forward to when the public can safely re-establish themselves in the Merced River.”
The bodies of John Gerrish, his wife, Ellen Chung, their 1-year-old daughter, Miju, and their dog were found on August 17 on a hiking trail near the river in the Sierra National Forest. A family friend had reported them missing.
A cause of death has not been determined, and investigators are considering whether poisonous algae blooms or other dangers may have contributed to the deaths.
Toxicological reports are still pending, and investigators have ruled out the use of weapons or dangerous gases from a mine along the trail.
On Tuesday, forest officials had closed access to trails in the area due to “unknown dangers”.
Closure to the Merced River Recreational Areas is valid until September 17th.
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