Report: Dad dies saving daughter as rock slide kills 5 hikers

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by CNN

KMOV.com

Posted on October 1, 2013 at 10:43 AM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 1 at 10:44 AM

(CNN) -- Sheriff's deputies will try as soon as Tuesday to recover the bodies of five people who died in a rockslide near a scenic Colorado waterfall.

The lone survivor of the rockslide, 13-year-old Gracie Johnson, was taken to Children's Hospital Colorado near Denver. Her condition is unknown.

Chaffee County sheriff's deputies rescued her from the debris Monday after tons of rock careered down on a vantage point looking up on Agnes Vaille Falls in Nathrop, Colorado, sometime before 11 a.m. Monday. The site is about 120 miles southwest of Denver.

While authorities have not released the identities of the dead, the Denver Post, citing Sheriff Pete Palmer, said the girl was hiking with members of her family, including her mother and father.

In an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America," Sheriff's Deputy Nick Tolsma said the girl told rescuers her father saved her life.

"The true hero here is her dad," Tolsma told the ABC show. "She said her dad jumped on top of her to protect her right at the last moment when the rocks were coming down."

The site of the slide is still very unstable and no one is allowed in the area other than the authorities, Palmer said Monday. Engineers are evaluating the conditions and Palmer said crews will return to retrieve the bodies "as soon as the area can be declared safe for the search teams."

Undersheriff John Spezze said he believed crews will be able to retrieve the bodies on Tuesday, after rocks thaw from their overnight freeze -- reducing the chance of further rockslides, CNN affiliate KMGH reported Tuesday.

"We've got a job to do. We need to do it," the station quoted him as saying.

The trail leading to the falls is a relatively easy one, according to the U.S. Forest Service, making it popular with families. However, rockslides are apparently relatively common near the trail, according to hiking website Alltrails.com.

The cause of the rockslide is not known, but Palmer said heavy rain this month in Colorado may have been a contributing factor.

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