BUENA VISTA, Colo. (CBS4) – A family from Buena Vista that was killed in a rock slide below Mount Princeton was well-known and liked in their community.
The Johnsons were hiking to Agnes Vaille Falls Monday morning in Chaffee County on the edge of Mount Princeton. The slide trapped and killed Dwayne and Dawna Johnson, their 18-year-old daughter Kiowa-Rain Johnson, and Baigen Walker and Paris Walkup, both of Birch Tree, Mo. They were nephews of Dwayne and Dawna Johnson. The Johnson’s other daughter, Gracie Johnson, 13, survived the slide.
A vigil was held for the Johnson’s at the Buena Vista High School football stadium Tuesday night. A number of people CBS4’s Jeff Todd spoke with said one of their best memories of the Johnsons was mother Dawna shouting from the stands. Dwayne coached the junior varsity and varsity football teams and his voice could be heard echoing throughout the stadium on gameday.
“It will be impossible in this brief time to cover what they mean to this community,” Sheriff Pete Palmer said. “Just a tremendous family and group of individuals.”
Sports were a major part of the Johnson family. Dawna coached track and Dwayne brought energy to the undefeated football team.
“I would consider him one of my best friends,” family friend Mike Carr said.
They were taking their nephews and daughters on a quick hike outside of town when they found themselves in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Hundreds of tons of rock let loose above them. Only 13-year-old Gracie survived. She told sheriff’s Deputy Nick Tolsma that her father had shielded her from the falling rocks, which is probably what saved her life.
“Her name is Gracie Faith. Have faith baby girl,” family friend Anna Yates said.
It was a rock at the high school that started to bond the community Monday night as friends left messages with paint to the Johnsons.
“So a few years ago our student council advisor thought we needed a rock that you could paint … it’s usually painted after games. Lately it’s been after wins and it’s been just kind of a motivational unifying symbol of a place for students to write on,” Buena Vista High School Principal Brian Yates said. “Last night, very impromptu, some students gathered around and repainted it in honor of the family.”
Scores of students and family friends have gone by the rock over the past 24 hours, with many writing the same thing — love for the Johnsons.
The high school will host the community for the next few days. After the vigil held on Tuesday night a bigger crowd is expected in the gymnasium on Saturday for a service for the three Johnson family members.