NATHROP, Colo. (AP/CBS4) – Five hikers have died after being trapped by a rock slide on a trail in south-central Colorado on Monday, and another was pulled out with injuries and flown to a Denver hospital, authorities said.
A seventh person was unaccounted for, the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Department said.
The slide occurred at about 11 a.m. Monday on the trail to Agnes Vaille Falls in the Pike and San Isabel National Forest, an easy day hike about a 2 1/2 hour drive southwest of Denver.
Officials say Gracie Johnson, 13, was hiking with family members at the time of the rock slide. Johnson was extracted from the slide and flown to Children’s Hospital, sheriff’s spokesman Dave Cotten said. Doctors at the Aurora hospital are not revealing details about her condition but authorities in Chafee County said Johnson suffered a broken leg and is expected to recover.
The names and hometowns of the deceased and missing hikers haven’t been released. Rescuers from at least five agencies were working at the scene Monday but said the recovery effort wouldn’t begin until Tuesday morning.
The slide included boulders the size of cars. There are engineers from the Climax mine near Leadville who were called in to assess the massive scene, where the ground is still unstable. It’s likely a collapse of rock above the steep walls on a route for people heading towards the falls.
“At the time when rescue people went into the slide … they encountered rocks falling and more rocks sliding. We pulled them back out of there and called in local geologist Fred Henderson who assessed the situation and says that there is still a lot of loose rock up above,” Chaffee County Undersheriff John Spezze said.
Crews were also dealing with a lack of light.
The Chaffee County Times reported that Johnson’s parents Dwayne and Dawna Johnson are both coaches for the school district in nearby Buena Vista and that Johnson is a student at McGinnis Middle School. The paper reported that her older sister and brother are current and former students of Buena Vista High School.
Community members gathered at the high school Monday night to pray for Johnson and mourn for those who died.
The trail is below Mount Princeton, a 14,197 foot peak. The National Forest Service describes the trail as short and relatively easy.
The trail is one of the first hikes recommended to people new to the area and is also popular with tourists, said Margaret Dean, a regular hiker who has hiked the trail with her 7-year-old grandson.
Dean, a copy assistant at The Mountain Mail newspaper in Salida, said the trail is easily accessible and provides a view of the falls and the Chalk Creek Valley in the Collegiate Peaks, which contains many mountains over 14,000-feet tall.
Agnes Vaille, the waterfall’s namesake, was a Denver mountaineer who died in 1925 while attempting a difficult winter climb of Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park.
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