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thunderhead
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PostWed Aug 18, 2021 6:55 am 
https://news.yahoo.com/california-family-3-dog-found-045619175.html

This is near Yosemite.

A family (3 people) were all found deceased, along with their dog after backpacking in and not returning.  Its summer in the sierra and a river is right there, so exposure and dehydration should not have been a factor.

The local sheriff speculates about CO poisoning but does not mention if all were found in their tent(doesnt sound like it).

Lightning strike?  Suicide by poison?  Accidental poisoning?

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forest gnome
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PostWed Aug 18, 2021 7:05 am 
Wow keep updated..was it a hike or camping trip..guess I read...

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thunderhead
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PostWed Aug 18, 2021 7:23 am 
I thought i saw backpacking in another article, but it could have been a day hike as details are sketchy.  Some sort of hike in was involved.

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kiliki
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PostMon Aug 23, 2021 8:56 am 
I hope they figure this out. What a mystery and a tragedy. The picture, with their baby and dog, is heart wrenching IMO. They look so nice and so happy.

https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/a-couple-their-baby-and-their-dog-died-on-a-california-hiking-trail-and-officials-dont-know-why/

Authorities still don’t know how it happened. An autopsy recently completed on the bodies yielded no conclusive results about the cause of the deaths, CNN reported. A toxicology report, which could take several weeks, is pending.

A necropsy is being performed on Oski, the dog, but the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office said no other animals were found dead in the immediate area.

When police found their bodies, there were no signs of trauma, the Fresno Bee reported. There was no suicide note or indication that the deaths were intentional, according to CNN. Although temperatures reached as high as 109 degrees the day the family hiked, dehydration was deemed unlikely because there was still water in the family’s hydration pack, the Chronicle reported.

Snakebites have not been ruled out, although that cause is unlikely because there was no physical evidence of wounds, the sheriff’s office told CNN.

The lack of definitive answers has led investigators to imagine other, more unusual causes. Carbon monoxide poisoning from a mine or toxic algae in the nearby Merced River are among the leading theories.
“At this point we can’t rule out anything,” Mariposa County sheriff’s deputy Kristie Mitchell said, according to the Fresno Bee.

About a month before the family was found dead, the U.S. Forest Service warned that “a high concentration of algae bloom” had been found in the Merced River near Hites Cove, where Gerrish and Chung were hiking. The Forest Service warned visitors not to swim or let their pets “enjoy” the water.

But reported human deaths from freshwater algal blooms are rare, the Chronicle reported. David Caron, a University of Southern California biological sciences professor, told the newspaper that while freshwater bacteria are a threat to people and animals, it would take high concentrations to kill humans rapidly.

“It’s conceivable that it is the cause,” Caron said. “But a lot needs to be done forensically to tie it to toxins.”

Poisoning from mines is also a possibility. When the family was found Tuesday, first responders treated the scene as a hazmat site because carbon monoxide may have leaked out from nearby mines. But the hazmat declaration was lifted on Wednesday, and the cause is looking less likely, Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Briese told the Fresno Bee. The closest mine Briese told the paper he knew of was 3 miles from where the family was found.

“We have not found any old mine shafts near the area,” he added. “There are some mine shafts, but we can’t confirm if that’s the cause yet.”

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Malachai Constant
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PostMon Aug 23, 2021 9:48 am 
CO from a mine is unlikely unless it was a smoldering coal mine. Mines sometimes have CO2 which smothers you in confined places. Occasionally CH4 or arsnine or phosphine are found but they dissipate in open air. The rest is just useless speculation without more facts.

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thunderhead
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PostWed Aug 25, 2021 7:17 am 
Has anyone ever heard of a natural poison so bad it takes out a family like this, even the dog?

I'm guessing powerful lightning strike.  I looked up the lightning archives and there was activity in that general area on the 15th and 16th.  I dont have time for a more detailed analysis and i dont even know for sure those are the right dates, so emphasis on guess.

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PostWed Aug 25, 2021 8:15 am 
thunderhead wrote:
Has anyone ever heard of a natural poison so bad it takes out a family like this, even the dog?

Yes.  The toxic algae bloom.  In fact the dead dog makes this much more likely.

Algae releases its toxins when it is disturbed.  My guess is that when they jumped in the Merced River, they stirred up the algae and released the toxins.  I'm thinking the toxicology report will show that that is what happened.

After there were claims of dead dogs due to toxic algae in Utah, I was pretty skeptical myself until I read more about it.  The toxin concentration can go crazy high when there is disturbance.  This process mostly kills dogs because they also drink the water, but you can get a lethal dose through your skin as well.

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PostWed Aug 25, 2021 9:27 am 
Hmmm.  Interesting.  As someone who generally jumps into most hiking rivers, including a few dips into the Merced(though not that portion) i find this a bit disturbing. If thats the case, how does one identify such algal blumes?  I assume its more complex than just looking, although i suspect the colder the water the less likely?

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PostWed Aug 25, 2021 12:27 pm 
thunderhead wrote:
i suspect the colder the water the less likely?

My understanding is that toxic algae blooms occur in warm, fouled waters (although the water may appear clear).  The fouling typically comes from cattle grazing upstream.

The water in the Cascades is both cold and oligotrophic (low nutrient content).

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Eric Hansen
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PostThu Aug 26, 2021 2:36 pm 
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reststep
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PostThu Aug 26, 2021 2:57 pm 
Does a filter work on algae toxins? What about boiling?

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PostThu Aug 26, 2021 3:37 pm 
reststep wrote:
Does a filter work on algae toxins? What about boiling?

Nope.  Toxins, in this case various microcystins, are molecules, while filters work on organisms such as bacteria.  Wikipedia says microcystins are resistant to being broken down by boiling.

Very few people have died of this.  A lot of unlucky stars have to align.  Based upon what I read about the deaths in Utah, you can even walk up to a river that is full of algae that produce toxins, and still safely drink the water.  However, if you wade into the water and stir up the algae, things might not go so well.

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OwenT
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PostTue Aug 31, 2021 3:28 pm 
The last few years we have had problems with toxic blue-green algae in Moses Lake except for this year because they apparently decided to run more water through the lake. I think the amount of water coming in from Banks lake had been cut down a bit and that probably led to higher concentrations of stuff coming off all the fields among other things that might have caused the blue-green algae to flourish. Warnings were issued about not swimming and some recreation sites were closed I think but we live on the lake and we swam all summer like normal. I never really knew what these algae blooms might look like until one day I was at a dock in a shallow, protected cove and the water around the dock was opaque and blue just like a smurf. I don't think the concentration in the great majority of the lake was ever enough to worry about, but I certainly wouldn't swim in water that looks like what I saw that day. I would assume that if it was the same kind of algae, a lethal concentration might have made the water look similar and they wouldn't have swum or drunk the water (I hope).

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Malachai Constant
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PostTue Aug 31, 2021 3:54 pm 
Some of the lakes near Bellevue had blue green algae a couple years ago and I thought a dog died after jumping in. We saw a lake near Sonora Pass that obviously had it and avoided it. A similar toxin in red tides is thermally stable so I would not count on boiling or filtering.

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PostMon Sep 27, 2021 8:24 am 
mad.gif

Where is the toxicology report six weeks after these deaths???

Some things take time, like culturing bacteria from a sample.  And if you don't know what toxin you are looking for, that can take a lot of time.  But the analysis to determine whether this family died of algae toxins doesn't require any of that.  They know what toxins to look for.

You know why we are still waiting for this?  Because the sample is sitting in a freezer waiting for someone to get around to it.  The public deserves better.   rant.gif

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