Update: Yesterday, we told you about a tragic rock slide that had killed five members of a Chaffee County family, with thirteen-year-old Gracie Johnson surviving because of what she described as a last heroic act by her dad shortly before losing his life; see our previous coverage below. Now, the bodies have been recovered and the victims identified as Gracie's parents, Dwayne and Dawna Johnson, her older sister Kiowa Rain and two cousins visiting from Missouri, Paris Walkup, 22, and Baigen Walker, ten. Photos, video and details below.
As we've reported, the six had been hiking near the Agnes Vaille Falls in Chaffee County at around 11 a.m. Monday when a slide several football fields in size was triggered.
Gracie was subsequently recovered from the rubble by a Chaffee County deputy. Shortly before being helicoptered to Children's Hospital in Aurora, she said her father had rushed to shield her as the slide swept over them, almost certainly saving her life.
Gracie suffered a broken leg. She's undergone surgery and is expected to make a full recovery. She's being cared for by her older brother, Dakota, and an uncle.
Those who were unable to escape the onslaught included Dwayne Johnson, a football coach at Buena Vista High School and patriarch of the family.
Also lost was Dawna Johnson, Gracie's mom, who coached track and is said to have been a gifted amateur photographer. And then there was Kiowa-Rain Johnson, who'd just celebrated her eighteenth birthday on Saturday, and was nominated as homecoming queen at Buena Vista. The image at the top of his post is from a session for her senior pictures.
The other two victims were cousins visiting from Missouri. Here's a photo of Baigen Walker, who enjoyed participating in martial arts....
...and Paris Walkup, who'd just graduated with a nursing degree and reportedly hoped that he could relocate to Colorado. Last night, a candlelight vigil was held to honor the Johnsons, Walker and Walkup -- and a formal memorial service is planned for Saturday. Again, our condolences to the friends, family and loved ones of those who didn't survive Monday's slide -- and our best wishes to Gracie.
Here's a 7News report about yesterday's developments, followed by our previous coverage.
Continue for our previous coverage of the tragic rock slide in Chaffee County, including photos and video. Original post, 5:57 a.m. October 1: What began as a rescue operation has now shifted into recovery mode following a rock slide that's visited unspeakable tragedy on a prominent Chaffee County family and residents of the area as a whole. But at its center is an act of heroism and a survivor's story that serves as the sole bright spot in an exceedingly bleak incident. Gracie Johnson, a thirteen year old seen here, survived the slide thanks, reportedly, to her father, a local high school football coach. But he's thought to have perished along with four other members of his kin. Photos, video and the heartbreaking details below.
According to 7News, Gracie and her family were hiking in the area of Agnes Vaille Falls at around 11 a.m. yesterday when the slide was triggered.
The slide is said to have covered an area the size of several football fields, with rocks and boulders sweeping over the family.
Rescue workers, including members of the Chaffee County Sheriff's Office, raced to the area at the first reports of the slide -- among them Deputy Nick Tolsma, who's credited with finding Gracie.
In an interview with Good Morning America, Tolsma said, "I heard a scream next to me -- I saw a hand sticking out underneath the boulder."
After uncovering her, Tolsma continues, Gracie "said that her dad jumped on top of her to protect her at the last moment when the rocks were coming down." The deputy's conclusion: "I really think that he saved her life."
Children's Hospital in Aurora, where Gracie was flown, has yet to release information about her condition. But the Denver Post reports that she suffered a broken leg.
The others lost in the slide have yet to be formally identified, and as of last night, their bodies still hadn't been recovered owing to instability in the rock field and encroaching darkness. But a number of Gracie's family members are missing.
No question that the clan was well known -- and notably athletic. The Mountain Mail points out that Gracie's dad, Dwayne Johnson, is a football coach, while her mom, Dawna Johnson, coaches track in the Buena Vista School District.
Gracie also has an older brother, Dakota, who graduated from Buena Vista High last year, and a sister, Kiowa Rain, who's a senior at the school.
Here's an undated family photo.
Today is expected to bring more information about what happened and the lives lost. In the meantime, our sincere condolences to the Johnson family, plus their friends and loved ones in Chaffee County -- and our best wishes to Gracie as she begins a terrifically difficult journey.
Here's a 7News report.
More from our News archive circa March: "Natalie Egleston skiing death: No charges in collision that took her life on Aspen Mountain."
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