BUENA VISTA, Colo. (CBS4) – Hundreds of people crowded a high school football stadium Tuesday night to honor a family killed in a rock slide. Five died and the lone survivor is alive only because her father shielded her from the crashing boulders.
Gracie Johnson, 13, survived the slide. The sheriff’s department identified the dead as Dwayne Johnson, 46, and Dawna Johnson, 45, Gracie’s parents; and her 18-year-old sister, Kiowa-Rain Johnson. The other victims were identified as Baigen Walker, 10, and Paris Walkup, 22, both of Birch Tree, Mo. They were nephews of Dwayne and Dawna Johnson.
The vigil was set up completely by Buena Vista students. Attendees said the vigil was about coming together as a community, holding each other up and trying to find some kind of closure with the sudden tragedy.
“There’s no other place for us to be but here. We love our kids, we love our community. It’s just important,” said Lanea Drawbridge, a Buena Vista teacher.
Drawbridge fought Monday night’s wind, trying to light the entire track with candles. It was a place that meant so much to the family and where each Johnson parent coached so many of the children in the community.
“Our sweet little kids were filling them all day,” Drawbridge said.
Gracie plays volleyball and is coached by Drawbridge.
“Our girls are struggling,” Drawbridge said. “This was a family, I think you don’t realize how much we’re going to miss them … they had a lot to offer; the kids, the folks, they were just an integral part of our community.”
The crowd swelled into the hundreds — almost a majority of the town, lighting candles for a family that touched so many.
Dakoda Defurio played football for Dwayne Johnson.
“If you called him in the middle of the night and needed something, he’d be there instantly. He was a role model to everyone here,” Defurio said. “Tonight I think it just means how tight this small town is; that everyone cares about everyone.”
“I hope the kids come away with a sense of closure,” Drawbridge said. “I know a lot of kids today expressed just the suddenness of it all and the fact that they didn’t get any closure.”