National News

Hiker missing 2 weeks in Utah is found

Posted October 19, 2020 5:34 p.m. EDT
Updated October 21, 2020 7:03 a.m. EDT

Shortly after Holly Suzanne Courtier set out on a hike in Utah’s Zion National Park nearly two weeks ago, she injured her head on a tree with a blow so disorienting that she could not seek help or stray far. But she survived by staying near water until Sunday, when help found her.

Courtier’s daughter, Kailey Chambers, provided that account to reporters Monday in an email that described her mother’s ordeal in the vast wilderness, which started with her disappearance Oct. 6 and ended with her rescue Sunday.

“She was without food the entire time in Zion,” Chambers said in the statement, emailed by a family friend, Kelley Kaufman White. “She was unable to take more than a step or two without collapsing. This prevented her from being able to seek out help. She told me she was so dehydrated she couldn’t open her mouth.”

Chambers said she visited her mother Monday while she was getting medical care.

“She is getting her strength back and hydrating,” she said. “She is still weak but recovering. She has been getting fluids because she was extremely dehydrated. And we are slowly introducing foods. Her health remains our top priority.”

Courtier went missing Oct. 6, after getting off a shuttle bus at the Grotto bus stop in the park. Her family said in a statement Sunday that they were “overjoyed” that she had been found safely.

The statement Monday filled in some of the blanks in the story of what happened to Courtier, 38, whose disappearance prompted a search by officials from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, park rangers and emergency service teams. Volunteers also joined the effort, and teams used drones and canine units, the National Park Service said in a series of statements about their efforts to locate her.

Authorities had said that a park visitor reported seeing her, but they did not say where, or how far she had gone into the vast park.

“We would like to thank the rangers and search teams who relentlessly looked for her day and night and never gave up hope,” the family said Sunday. “We are also so grateful to the countless volunteers who were generous with their time, resources and support. This wouldn’t have been possible without the network of people who came together.”

Courtier got off the shuttle bus at the Grotto stop between 1 and 1:30 p.m. Oct. 6, the park service said. She was reported missing two days later, the service said.

Park officials and rescue teams did not immediately reply to calls and emails seeking information about the circumstances of finding Courtier or other details of her survival.

Nancy Hachmeister, a volunteer who joined a search and rescue team with her 6-year-old German shepherd, Hanna, combed an area near the campgrounds of the park, using a cutup T-shirt that Courtier had in her car as a scent item to guide the dog.

Four other dog teams from her volunteer organization, Utah Search Dogs, a nonprofit organization in Brigham City, fanned out to help. But their efforts seemed to lead only to dead ends, such as when Hachmeister and her dog climbed a hillside Friday to examine a blue object.

“It was a rock,” she said. “It was kind of grayish and it did look blue from a distance.”

Courtier’s family could not be reached for further comment. A GoFundMe campaign that was set up after she went missing raised $10,000 for her rescue. It said that Courtier had no phone with her and had told no one of her plans.

It was updated Sunday after Courtier was found, saying she needed medical care and had no insurance.

On Saturday, her daughter, Chambers, told CNN that her mother was an experienced, fit hiker, capable of handling the rugged trails of the park.

“This was her dream, to see national parks,” Chambers said.

She said that her mother had just lost her job as a nanny.

“She made that a positive thing — said that gave her the time to get out, see the parks,” Chambers said.

Known for its canyons and waterfalls, Zion National Park is spread across more than 148,000 acres in Washington, Iron and Kane counties in southwest Utah.

More than 4 million people visit the park each year, according to the National Park Service, which said on its website that, in the past year, teams had searched for missing people in about two dozen national parks. People usually go missing because they become disoriented, lost, injured or their disappearance is voluntary or the result of a crime, the service said.

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