THE British family who was mysteriously found dead on a remote hiking trail in California may have been killed by lightning, reports say.
Software engineer Jonathan Gerrish, 45, his wife Ellen Chung, 31, and their one-year-old daughter Muji were discovered by crews in an area of the Sierra National Forest known as Devil's Gulch on August 17.
The case is shrouded in mystery as cops ruled out homicide despite being unable to give an explanation or a possible cause of death.
Police said there were no signs of trauma and are now investigating possible lightning strikes in the Sierra National Forest area, The New York Times reports.
Lightning strikes kill around 49 people on average each year in the US and hundreds more have been injured.
Only 10 percent of lightning strikes cause death predominately by cardiac arrest, according to the National Weather Service.
Weeks before Jonathan, his wife and daughter were found dead, Fresno hiker Nicholas Torchia, 37 was killed after a lightning strike in the forest.
A lightning strike was thought to be the likely cause of the Creek Fire that raged across the Sierra National Forest last September.
The blaze burned 600 square miles and hundreds of Labor Day campers were evacuated via a series of helicopter flights.
It comes after high levels of toxic algae were recorded in the Merced River – just a few miles from where the bodies were discovered.
Elizabeth Meyer-Shields, of the Bureau of Land Management, said: "These algal blooms can produce toxins that can make people and pets extremely sick.
"We will continue to monitor for the algae’s presence and look forward to when the public can safely recreate in the Merced River."
Campsites and recreation areas along the river, between the towns of Briceburg and Bagby, were shut after water samples revealed the algae.
Forest officials also closed access to trails in the area citing "unknown hazards".
The Savage Lundy trail is closed off to the public until September 26.
Gunshot wounds and injuries from other weapons have been ruled out.
Sheriff Jeremy Briese said: "We know the family and friends of John and Ellen are desperate for answers. Our team of detectives is working round the clock.
"Cases like this require us to be methodical and thorough while also reaching out to every resource we can find to help us bring those answers to them as quickly as we can."
'DESPERATE FOR ANSWERS'
Jonathan, originally from Lancashire, and Ellen, of Orange County, lived in San Francisco before moving to Mariposa.
They reportedly wanted to raise their daughter in a "quiet slow-paced environment" that was surrounded by open-air and close to the mountains.
Jonathan, who had worked for Google and Snapchat, went for a day hike with his family on August 15.
But when their nanny arrived at the family home to look after their daughter, no one answered the door and friends became worried.
They were reported missing by a relative on Monday and authorities found the family's car near the forest gate the same day.
Their bodies were located days later just two miles from their car in an area with no phone reception.
The family's nine-year-old dog Oski was also found dead at the scene.
Friends became concerned when Jonathan failed to report for work.
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