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Utah sheriff’s sergeant says Zion hiker’s story ‘does not add up’

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A Utah sheriff’s sergeant has cast doubt on the story of a Zion hiker who claims to have survived for 12 days with no food and water after getting lost, and whose family has raised $12,000 for her on a GoFundMe account.

Holly Courtier, 38, was suddenly found in the park on Sunday, 12 days after vanishing on a solo day trip. 

Her family has since claimed she survived on no food and that she stayed beside a river where she could drink water. Her daughter has also said she hit her head and that’s why she couldn’t go looking for help. 

They have continued to ask for donations to the GoFundMe account, claiming she needs them for medical bills, but they have not specified what her injuries are. 

On Wednesday, Sgt. Darrell Cashin from the Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue said parts of Courtier’s story do not ‘add up’ and that there are ‘discrepancies to it.

He said she couldn’t have survived by drinking the water from the river where she was because it would have killed her, that she had no head injury like her family claimed, that she would have heard people calling her name and that there were questions over her ‘decision’ to enter the park. 

She left California, he said, on a bus in the middle of the night without telling anyone where she was going. 

Sgt. Darrell Cashin said on Wednesday parts of Holly Courtier’s survival story ‘don’t add up’ 

‘The statements that the family is giving and the statements that the park is giving don’t add up. 

‘Those are the types of questions I think everybody has. I think the place where that question can be answered is with her,’ he told ABC 4. 

She was found half-a-mile from where she was first seen in the park and, according to her family, she didn’t go far because she’d hit her head on a tree. 

Cashin said it’s therefore unlikely no one found her or that she didn’t hear them as search parties looked for her, saying the teams who searched for her went ‘above and beyond’. 

‘They even had GPS tracks of every trail, every part of the backcountry, and every valley they searched. 

‘They had everything about Holly they possibly could’ve gotten to give an indication of what her behavior was like and where she might have gone.

‘Understand, there’s a lot of country up there. If you go off-trail, it will be virtually impossible to find somebody unless they want to be found.

‘If she’s by the Virgin River, she’s down in the valley, not in the backcountry up in the plateaus and the peaks.

Holly’s family has raised more than $12,000 of their $15,000 goal. They say she needs medical care but the sheriff said she had no serious injuries when she was found on Sunday 

Holly, seen above in social media photos, was described by her family as an experienced hiker. She set off without her phone and had no food with her. The sheriff’s sergeant now says there are questions about why she went to the park – she left California on the middle of the night and didn’t tell anyone where she was going 

‘She’s in that main part of the canyon, which always has thousands of people walking up and down those trails. 

‘I’m sure people walked by yelling for her.’

Courtier’s daughter said she deliberately stayed close to a water source and that she drank from it. 

Where Courtier was found was near Virginia River which Cashin said would have either killed her or made her ‘very ill’ because there are dangerously high levels of bacteria in the water.  

‘If she had been drinking that water, unless she had some really high immune system, she would’ve been very, very ill and probably unable to come out on her own. 

‘She either took a lot of water with her or had another clean water source that was near here, but the Virgin River is not that source,’ he said. 

There was a lengthy search and rescue effort to find Holly. Authorities searched the park with dogs and advanced technology as well as releasing information to the public that may help her be found 

He also said she did not have a head injury that would have been consistent with her hitting it on a tree, as her daughter claimed she did. 

‘If we had found somebody in that condition with that kind of severe head injury, we would have at minimum called for a transport agency to check her out.  The fact that that didn’t happen tells me that they did not find any significant injury to her that would’ve prompted them to do that.

‘Physically, she seemed to be in a condition that did not warrant an ambulance and they felt was comfortable to release her to her family to address,’ he said. 

The family set a goal of raising $15,000 for Holly, saying they needed the money first to pay for the search for her, and then for her medical bills. 

Holly herself has not been seen or heard from since she was found.

In an interview with CNN on Tuesday, Courtier’s daughter said: ‘She injured her head on a tree.

‘She was very disoriented as a result and thankfully ended up near a water source — a river bed.

‘She thought her best chance of survival was to stay next to a water source.’

‘She was too weak and disoriented (to seek help),’ she said. ‘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.’

Her daughter ended up seeing her mother on Monday morning and said that she was ‘getting her strength back and hydrating.’

‘She is still weak but recovering,’ Kailey said.

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