Five Hikers Killed In Colorado By Rock Slide - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Five Hikers Killed In Colorado By Rock Slide

Posted: Updated:

BUENA VISTA, Colo. (AP) -- A 13-year-old girl said her father shielded her as boulders crashed down on them on a Colorado hiking trail -- an action that authorities say probably saved her life even as her father and four other family members were killed.

Rescuers dug Gracie Johnson out of the rubble after Monday's slide, and she was airlifted to a Denver-area hospital with a broken leg, the Chaffee County Sheriff's Department said Tuesday.

"She told me at the last second when the boulders were coming down on top of them that he covered her up and protected her, which I believe it saved her life," said sheriff's Deputy Nick Tolsma.

Gracie's parents and sister from nearby Buena Vista were killed, as were two of her cousins from Missouri.

The sheriff's department identified the dead as Dwayne Johnson, 46, and Dawna Johnson, 45, Gracie's parents; and her 18-year-old sister, Kiowa-Rain Johnson.

The other victims were identified as Baigen (BAY'-gun) Walker, 10, and Paris Walkup, 22, both of Birch Tree, Mo. They were nephews of Dwayne and Dawna Johnson.

All five bodies were recovered Tuesday afternoon and identified by a family member, Sheriff Pete Palmer said. Palmer said the coroner will make the final, formal identification.

Dwayne and Dawna Johnson were football and track coaches, respectively, in Buena Vista schools, were well known in the town and very active in community events.

Family friend Mike Carr of Buena Vista said Dwayne Johnson was quick to help others.

"Probably his only regret is that he didn't jump in front of his whole family. He's just that type of guy," Carr said. "He probably did that without one bit of hesitation."

Monday's slide sent 100-ton boulders onto a popular viewing area that overlooks Agnes Vaille falls below 14,197-foot Mount Princeton in south-central Colorado.

The massive slide left a gash the size of a football field in the mountainside, Undersheriff John Spezze said.

What triggered it wasn't immediately known, though Spezze said the area had heavy summer rain and a recent snowfall.

Rain or melting snow can make slides more likely by weakening a steep slope and making the rocks and soil heavier, said Jerry Higgins, an associate professor of geological engineering at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden.

With enough data, geologists can identify slopes that are susceptible to slides, Higgins said, but finding all of them would be a massive undertaking.

"In Colorado, there's a lot of steep slopes, and I don't think anybody's got the money to pay for the studies for all the steep slopes," he said.

Witnesses said some of the boulders were the size of cars. A hiker who heard the slide in Chalk Creek Canyon ran down the trail and called for help, Spezze said.

Tolsma said he was one of the first at the scene and heard screaming from beneath the rubble. He saw Gracie Johnson's hand sticking up through the rocks.

"I started digging her out until I had more help come and we got her all the way out," he said.

The rock slide was too unstable for crews to retrieve the bodies Monday, so they waited till Tuesday, authorities said.

A candlelight vigil was being held Tuesday night at Buena Vista High School's football field. A memorial service for the Johnsons was set for Saturday at the high school gym, to be followed by a community meal; separate services were being organized for the nephews in Missouri. Buena Vista's Cornerstone Church also set up a fund for the family.

The U.S. Forest Service maintains the busy Agnes Vaille falls trail near St. Elmo ghost town. Spezze said officials have asked the Forest Service to close it permanently.

The trail is one of the first hikes recommended to people new to the area and is popular with tourists, said Margaret Dean, a regular hiker who has walked the trail with her 7-year-old grandson.

Dean, a copy assistant at The Mountain Mail newspaper in Salida, said the trail provides a view of the falls and the Chalk Creek Valley in the towering Collegiate Peaks.

  • Local NewsMore>>

  • Only On Fox: Arsonist On The Loose In South Jersey Town

    Only On Fox: Arsonist On The Loose In South Jersey Town

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 4:45 PM EDT2014-04-16 20:45:07 GMT
    It started with a brush fire, then another fire at the rear of this home on Monroe Street and finally a blaze that swept through this vacant home up the block, just a few feet away from where Emma Sethman
    It started with a brush fire, then another fire at the rear of this home on Monroe Street and finally a blaze that swept through this vacant home up the block, just a few feet away from where Emma Sethman
  • Teenage Boy Reported Missing In Camden

    Teenage Boy Reported Missing In Camden

    Teenage Boy Reported Missing In Camden

    Monday, April 21 2014 1:06 AM EDT2014-04-21 05:06:41 GMT
    Officials say Michael Edwards was last seen when he left his home on the 700 block of Berkley Street. He is described as a black male 5’5, 120 points, with brown eyes and black hair.Officials say Michael Edwards was last seen when he left his home on the 700 block of Berkley Street. He is described as a black male 5’5, 120 points, with brown eyes and black hair.
    Camden County Police are looking for a 15-year old teenage boy reported missing Saturday night.
    Camden County Police are looking for a 15-year old teenage boy reported missing Saturday night.
  • Police Search For Person Of Interest In Collingdale Hit-And-Run

    Police Search For Person Of Interest In Collingdale Hit-And-Run

    Monday, April 21 2014 1:05 AM EDT2014-04-21 05:05:34 GMT
    A man was struck by a SUV in Collingdale early Saturday morning. Police responded to reports of a hit and run on the 900 block of Bedford Avenue around 5:30 a.m. Upon arrival, they found a Range Rover crashed into a Chrysler 300 and a man was also laying the lawn of 919 Bedford Avenue covered in blood. The victim was transported to Crozer Chester Medical Center. He is in surgery with severe head and severe lower b...
    A man was struck by a SUV in Collingdale early Saturday morning. Police responded to reports of a hit and run on the 900 block of Bedford Avenue around 5:30 a.m. Upon arrival, they found a Range Rover crashed into a Chrysler 300 and a man was also laying the lawn of 919 Bedford Avenue covered in blood. The victim was transported to Crozer Chester Medical Center. He is in surgery with severe head and severe lower b...
Powered by WorldNow

KDFW FOX 4
400 N. Griffin Street
Dallas, Texas 75202

Main Station Directory:
(214) 720-4444
News Fax:
(214) 720-3263 or (214) 720-3333

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices