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Rock slide victims were from Colorado, Missouri

By Scott Harrison
Published On: Dec 24 2013 08:20:34 AM CST
Updated On: Oct 01 2013 11:41:33 PM CDT

A married couple, their oldest daughter and two relatives from Missouri died while hiking on Monday.

BUENA VISTA, Colo. -

Authorities have identified the victims of a Colorado rock slide as members of an extended family from Colorado and Missouri, including a 10-year-old boy.

The Chaffee County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday that the lone survivor, Gracie Johnson, 13, was dug out by rescuers and taken by helicopter to a Denver-area hospital with a broken leg.
    
The five people killed include Gracie's parents, Dwayne, 45, and Dawna, 44 , and Gracie's sister, Kiowa-Rain, 18, all of nearby Buena Vista.  Dwayne was an assistant football coach and Dawna was an assistant track coach at the high school.  Kiowa was a three-sport athlete who had recently celebrated her birthday.
    
The sheriff's department said the other victims were Baigen Walker, 10, and Paris Walkup of Birch Tree, Mo.  They were stepbrothers and nephews of Dwayne and Dawna Johnson.

"They were just enjoying the beautiful fall day and the colors because relatives were in town," said Mike Carr, a family friend.  "Kiowa was supposed to be back at school for a test that afternoon."

The Johnsons' son, Dakota, believed to be around 20 years old, was not hiking with the family and is staying with Gracie at the hospital.

The slide happened Monday on the popular Agnes Vaille Falls hiking trail near Mount Princeton.  A 40-man search and rescue team recovered the bodies after a four-hour effort on Tuesday.  Authorities said recent heavy rain made rocks in the area unstable, bringing boulders as heavy as 100 tons down on the victims.

The trail is in the Pike and San Isabel National Forest.

"We're going to ask the Forest Service to permanently close that trail," said John Speeze, the county's undersheriff.  "Geologists tell us there's no way it can be made safe."

Students gathered at the high school on Monday night, during the day Tuesday and again Tuesday night for a candlelight vigil.  The Johnsons were known by nearly everyone in town and left a strong, positive impression.

"I'm honored that they asked me to speak on behalf of the Johnsons," said Jennifer Eggleston, a family friend.  "We've know them since we moved here 17 years ago.  They've been a part of every single person's life in this town."

Students also repainted a boulder on campus normally used for school spirit, and wrote personal messages to the victims.

A memorial service for the Johnsons is scheduled at 10 a.m. Saturday at the high school.  The Cornerstone Church is accepting donations to help the family pay funeral expenses.

A service for the Johnson's Missouri relatives is still being planned.

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