The story of a woman who was miraculously found alive after going missing in a national park for almost two weeks “doesn’t add up”, a police sergeant says.
Holly Courtier went missing in Zion National Park in the US state of Utah for 12 days after she was dropped off at the Grotto parking area around 1.30pm on October 6 by a private shuttle bus.
She was scheduled to be picked up after 4.30pm, but she never showed up.
After the 38-year-old was reported missing on October 8, a frantic search for her began, with a GoFundMe page raising almost A$17,000 to help fund rescue efforts.
Ms Courtier was found alive on October 18 after search crews received a tip from a park visitor who reported seeing her.
Mystery over how woman survived despite not drinking from river
But days after the stunning development, Sgt Darrell Cashin, whose search and rescue team assisted in finding Ms Courtier, has raised questions over the hiker’s version of events.
Her daughter Kailey Chambers told CNN Ms Courtier was an experienced hiker but had hit her head and became disoriented during the hike.
She also said her mother was near the Virgin River but could not drink the water due to concerns it was toxic. Sgt Cashin confirmed there would have been a “high possibility” of her dying if she did drink from the river, but said without any water at all she would have died within two to three days.
“If she had been drinking that water, unless she had some really high immune system, she would’ve been very, very ill and probably unable to come out on her own,” Sgt Cashin told ABC4.
“She either took a lot of water with her or had another clean water source that was near her, but the Virgin River is not that source.”
Ms Chambers also said that Ms Courtier was so weak she could not take more than a step or two without collapsing, preventing her from seeking help.
However Zion National Park reported that Ms Courtier could walk on her own and only needed minimal assistance after she was located.
“If we had found somebody in that condition with that kind of severe head injury, we would have at minimum called for a transport agency to check her out,” Sgt Cashin told ABC4.
“Physically, she seemed to be in a condition that did not warrant an ambulance.
“The fact that that didn’t happen tells me that they did not find any significant injury to her that would’ve prompted them to do that.”
Questions raised over location woman was found
Sgt Cashin also questioned the location of where the woman was found – about 800 metres from the Grotto parking area – and why she made the decision to leave her home state of California in the middle of the night without telling anybody where she was going.
“If she’s by the Virgin River, she’s down in the valley, not in the back country up in the plateaus and the peaks,” Sgt Cashin told ABC4.
“She’s in that main part of the canyon, which always has thousands of people walking up and down those trails. I’m sure people walked by yelling for her.
“The statements that the family is giving and the statements that the park is giving don’t add up. Those are the types of questions I think everybody has. I think the place where that question can be answered is with her.”
ABC4 has attempted to contact Mr Courtier and her family.
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