The family of the rescued Zion National Park hiker spoke out after a sheriff's sergeant questioned her survival story — but it's still confusing

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Holly Courtier.
Holly Courtier seen in her missing-person poster. National Parks Service
  • An official who helped in the search for Holly Courtier, who was found in Zion National Park 12 days after she disappeared on a hike, raised questions about her survival story earlier this week.

  • Her sister, Jamie Courtier-Strong, told “CBS This Morning” and NBC’s “Today” show on Thursday that her sister had been fasting for two days before she went into the park and intended to keep that fast during the hike.

  • She also said Courtier was able to leave the park on her own because of a surge in adrenaline when she was rescued. Courtier’s daughter had previously said she was too weak to seek help.

  • Courtier-Strong told CBS that her sister didn’t tell anyone about her plans to go to Zion and that the family told her that’s not normal.

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The family of a woman who was rescued from Zion National Park after disappearing for 12 days has spoken out in an attempt to quell suspicions raised about her survival story.

Holly Courtier was rescued from the Utah park on Sunday, about half a mile from the parking lot where she started her hike 12 days earlier. Park officials said she was found in a thickly vegetated area along the Virgin River.

Courtier’s daughter, Kailey Chambers, told CNN on Monday that her mother hit her head early on in the hike, became disoriented, and decided to stay near a water source. Chambers added that Courtier was “too weak and disoriented” to seek help.

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Sgt. Darrell Cashin, who earlier this week questioned the Courtier family’s story. ABC 4

The suspicions

Sgt. Darrell Cashin of the Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue raised several questions about the family’s story in interviews with ABC 4 and St. George News this week.

He said:

  • Courtier would have died if she drank from the Virgin River, which is contaminated. (Courtier’s daughter did not specify to CNN the name of the water source her mother found. She also did not say that her mother drank from it.)

  • Courtier was found in a well-traveled area of the park and should have heard rescuers nearby.

  • Park officials did not call an ambulance for Courtier when they found her, which wouldn’t make sense if she were in as bad a shape as her family described.

The rebuttals

Courtier’s older sister, Jamie Courtier-Strong, told NBC’s “Today” show and “CBS This Morning” on Thursday that Courtier had fasted for two days before the hike and planned to keep that fast while she spent a day or two in the park.

Courtier-Strong also said:

  • Courtier said she never drank from the water source she found, using the water only to wet her lips.

  • Courtier did see another person at one point but was so dehydrated that she couldn’t open her mouth to call for help.

  • Courtier was able to leave the park on her own because of a surge in adrenaline when she was rescued.

Courtier-Strong added that when Courtier was found, a park ranger stood behind her in case she fell, and she had to stop every 5 feet to sit down and rest.

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Courtier’s sister, Jamie Courtier-Strong, in an interview with “CBS This Morning.” CBS News

Courtier-Strong said an ambulance was not called because her sister wanted to go to the hospital in her car. Courtier-Strong said she drove her sister straight to the emergency room.

The National Park Service has not released a description of Courtier’s state when she was found. It is still investigating the incident, CBS said.

The National Park Service and the Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

‘Not in the right state of mind’

Cashin also said this week that Courtier had left her home in California in the middle of the night for the hike and did not tell her family where she was going.

In her “CBS This Morning” interview, Courtier-Strong confirmed that her sister never told her family when she left. Courtier-Strong said Courtier’s family told her that this was “not a normal thing to do.” She added that she believes her sister learned a lesson.

Courtier-Strong told “Today” that the questions raised about her sister’s time in the park were being “blown out of proportion.”

Courtier has since checked herself into a mental-wellness center, her sister said.

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The Virgin River in Zion National Park in November 2019. George Rose/Getty Images

“I don’t think that her mental state was good when she went into the park,” Courtier-Strong told “Today.”

“I really think she had a mental breakdown and was not in the right state of mind when she decided to take this journey and not tell people where she was going,” she said.

Courtier-Strong said that her sister had “definitely been through some trauma over the past several years.”

“I don’t think she’s properly dealt with it and gotten the proper help for it, and now is the time,” Courtier-Strong said.

The Daily Mail reported that GoFundMe, where the family is raising money for Courtier, was investigating the fundraiser after Cashin’s interviews. GoFundMe did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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