Community holds vigil for family killed in Chaffee County rockslide
CHAFFEE COUNTY, Colo. — A community in mourning held a vigil Tuesday night in Buena Vista for five members of the Johnson family who were killed in a rockslide Monday.
They died when the boulders came down at Agnes Vaille Falls, a popular hiking area near Nathrop.
Search crews recovered all five bodies Tuesday Chaffee County Sheriff Pete Palmer said.
Gracie Johnson, the 13-year-old lone survivor of the slide told authorities that her dad saved her life.
“The true hero here is her dad,” Sheriff’s Deputy Nick Tolsma said on ABC’s Good Morning America. “She said her dad jumped on top of her to protect her right at the last moment when the rocks were coming down.”
Johnson’s mother and father, 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 were all killed in the slide.
Baigen and Walkup were visiting from Missouri, according to the sheriff’s office.
The slide happened along the Agnes Vaille Falls at Mt. Princeton around 11 a.m. Monday. Johnson was airlifted to Children’s Hospital in Aurora after the slide for surgery to repair a severely broken leg. Her condition is listed as stable, according to deputies.
The unstable environment made recovery efforts extremely difficult Tuesday as heavy equipment was needed to remove the surrounding debris.
Chaffee County sheriff’s deputies along with 40 volunteer members from other agencies worked together to recover the bodies. The Chaffee County coroner once the bodies have been officially identified.
Agnes Vaille Falls is a popular hiking trail because of its short length (about 1 mile roundtrip).
The cause of the rockslide is not known, but Palmer said 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 the school’s 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.
Max Slavin, 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,” Slavin said.
CNN contributed to this report.