From: Daily Mail
by MICHAEL ZENNIE
The Colorado rock slide that killed five hikers on Monday claimed three members of a respected family, along with two cousins who were visiting from Missouri, it was revealed today.
Gracie Johnson, 13, was the sole survivor after her father heroically pushed her out of the way of 100 tons of boulders that came loose from the mountain and tumbled onto a hiking trail near Buena Vista, Colorado.
Gracie’s mother and father Dwayne and Dawna Johnson, ages 46 and 45, were killed, along with her 18-year-old sister Kiowa Raine Johnson and cousins Baigen Walker, 10, and Paris Walkup, 22, from Birch Tree, Missouri.
Gracie, who was flown to Children’s Hospital of Denver with a broken leg, is one of only two members of her family of five left alive.
Her brother Dakota, 20, no longer lives in Buena Vista, but was rushing back to town to be with his sister, the Denver Post reports.
Dwayne was an assistant football coach at Buena Vista High School, as well as an electrician and landscaper.
Dawn coached track at the high school, was a photographer and a popular waitress at a restaurant in town.
‘Everyone knows this family. Everyone who was involved in football knew Dwayne,’ Brian Dengler, the pastor at Cornerstone Church, told the Post.
‘The whole family, they were gregarious. Very outgoing. Very active in the community. Kiowa just turned 18. Dwayne was so proud of his girl. Just an amazing, amazing family.’
On Tuesday, emergency workers returned to the perilous mountainside at Agnes Vaille Falls near Mount Princeton – 130 miles southwest of Denver.
|Trapped: Five hikers are buried beneath untold tons of rock and rubble Monday night and rescuers are afraid even more could come down on them if they stay at the site|
The short mile-and-a-half trail is popular with families and is known as one of the easiest hikes around.
The Johnson family took advantage of a clear, beautiful day Monday – following days of rain and clouds previously – to take their visiting family members Baigen and Paris for a hike.
Chaffee County Sheriff’s Deputy Nick Tolsma was among the first officials to respond to the scene of the collapse, where he discovered Gracie alive under a rock.
‘I heard a scream next to me. I saw a hand sticking out underneath the boulder,’ Tolsma told ABC News. ‘The true hero is her dad. She said her dad jumped on her to protect her at the last moment when the rocks were coming down. I think he saved her life.’
Geologists believe that the downpour of rain that the area received recently, combined with the onset of frost – which froze and thawed the ground, likely caused the massive rock slide – which loosened boulders the size of cars and let loose an estimate 100 tons of rubble.
Sheriff Pete Palmer called off the recovery operation Monday night because the area is too unstable and experts fear another rock slide.
‘They are in bad shape. They were rolled over by boulders as big as these cars,’ Palmer told reporters.
‘There is no one alive up there.’
Sheriff’s department spokeswoman Monica Broaddus said rescuers left the mountain before dark Monday. She said the recovery effort would wait until likely Tuesday afternoon, after an engineer could survey the slide area to make sure it’s safe to remove the bodies.
The sheriff confirmed that Gracie Johnson was hiking with her family.
The disaster happened about 11am. Rescuers were forced to retreat shortly after the rock slide, over fears that even more boulders could come crashing down the mountainside.
By the afternoon, the county’s resident geologist was inspecting the scene to advise rescuers over how to proceed at the site.
Large amounts of rain had previously fallen on Mount Princeton, which could have contributed to the boulders coming loose and sliding down the mountain.
The trail is popular with day hikers because it offers just a short, rocky scramble to the spectacular Agnes Vaille Falls.
The trail is below Mount Princeton, a 14,197-foot peak. The National Forest Service describes the trail as short and relatively easy.
The trail is one of the first hikes recommended to people new to the area and is also popular with tourists, said Margaret Dean, a regular hiker who has hiked the trail with her 7-year-old grandson.