ROCK SLIDE: Five Family Members Killed
BUENA VISTA, Colorado (CNN) — The lone survivor of a rock slide that apparently killed five members of her family — including her mother, father and sister — told authorities her dad saved her life, ABC’s “Good Morning America” reported Tuesday.
“The true hero here is her dad,” Sheriff’s Deputy Nick Tolsma told the ABC show. “She said her dad jumped on top of her to protect her right at the last moment when the rocks were coming down.”
Tolsma helped rescue 13-year-old Gracie Johnson after the devastating slide Monday that the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office said is believed to have killed the girl’s parents, Dwayne and Dawna Johnson; her 18-year-old sister, Kiowa-Rain Johnson; and two nephews, 10-year-old Baigen Walker and 22-year-old Paris Walkup.
Baigen and Walkup were visiting from Missouri, according to the sheriff’s office.
Gracie Johnson was hospitalized Tuesday at Children’s Hospital in Denver for surgery to repair a severely broken leg, Smith said. She was listed in stable condition, according to Smith.
Search crews recovered the bodies and identified them on Tuesday, the sheriff’s office said, more than a day after rocks came crashing down at a scenic overlook near a waterfall.
Massive debris that pinned the victims required heavy equipment to remove, and the scene was extremely unstable, Smith said.
The rock slide happened before 11 a.m. Monday at a vantage point looking up on Agnes Vaille Falls in Nathrop. The site is about 120 miles southwest of Denver.
The trail leading to the falls is a relatively easy one, according to the U.S. Forest Service, making it popular with families. However, rock slides are relatively common near the trail, according to the hiking website Alltrails.com.
The cause of the rock slide is not known, but Sheriff Pete Palmer said Monday that heavy rain this month in Colorado may have been a contributing factor.
Dwayne Johnson was an assistant football coach at Buena Vista High School, according to Principal Brian Yates. Dawna worked at two restaurants. She was also a coach at the school, according to the sheriff’s office.
Together, they were deeply involved in their community, Yates said.
Matt Flavin, who coached football with Dwayne Johnson for eight years, said he was not surprised that he saved his daughter’s life.
“He’s the guy who would do anything for anyone,” Flavin said.
CNN’s Michael Pearson reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Kyung Lah contributed to this report.