A father and his 6-year-old daughter died side by side of hypothermia while walking to get help after a vehicle crash on their way to visit the man’s mother in South Carolina, USA, officials have said.
Jason Murph, 42, and his daughter, Michelle, were found dead by police dogs about 50 yards from their wrecked pickup truck in a field on December 18, 2023.
The results of the victims’ autopsies were inconclusive, but the Calhoun County coroner made the determination of hypothermia based on weather conditions.
“It wasn’t below freezing by no means, but because of the wind and the rain, they become extremely cold, and I think it became an urgency for them to try to find help and try to find shelter,” Coroner Donnie Porth told the station News19.
The father and daughter’s bodies had no suspicious injuries, and no foul play was suspected in their deaths.
Murph and Michelle had set out from Blythewood to visit the man’s mother in Orangeburg 60 miles away, but they never made it there and were reported missing on December 16, according to the station WFAB.
Murph’s estranged wife told the Richland County Sheriff’s Department that around 8 o’clock that night, he called her to say that he and their daughter had been in a crash after their vehicle slid off the road, according to an incident report cited by News19.
The wife said Murph told her he did not know where he was during the call. The woman reported hearing their 6-year-old daughter yelling in the background before her dad hung up the phone.
The wife called Murph back but he didn’t answer. She also texted him to call 911 but received no response.
Surveillance video from an Exxon gas station showed Murph’s silver Toyota Tundra pickup truck just over an hour before the man made the call to his estranged wife.
The coroner suggested that Murph’s truck had gotten stuck in the mud and he made numerous attempts to free it from the mud, which sparked a grass fire from the tire friction.
Murph and his daughter then apparently climbed out of their wrecked and burning vehicle to put out the flames, and then tried to reach the interstate on foot to seek help, but instead found themselves sucked into the mud near a creek.
“I feel like they were walking together, and unfortunately, he being heavier than she is, he sank into the mud, and the more you struggle, the deeper you go,” Porth told News19.