A sheriff’s sergeant is questioning the rescued Zion National Park hiker’s story, saying there’s no way she could have survived for 2 weeks off river water

  • Holly Courtier was found Sunday in Zion National Park, Utah, nearly two weeks after she disappeared on a day hike.
  • Sgt. Darrell Cashin, who helped the search-and-rescue effort, now says he has questions about Courtier's story, and pointed out multiple discrepancies.
  • For example, Courtier's daughter told CNN that her mother hit her head early in the hike, and then stuck close to a river bed so she had a source of water.
  • But Cashin says the river where Courtier was found is unsafe to drink, and that she would have likely died if she drank it for 12 days.
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An official who aided in the search for Holly Suzanne Courtier, the woman who was found nearly two weeks after disappearing during a hike in Zion National Park, is questioning her family's story of how she survived without water or food.

Courtier, a 38-year-old from California, was found on Sunday about a half-mile from the parking lot where she began what was supposed to be a day hike through the Utah park.

In a Sunday statement, Zion National Park officials said Courtier was found in a thickly-vegetated area near the Virgin River.

Sgt. Darrell Cashin, who served as an advisor in the park's search efforts for Courtier, told ABC 4 she left California in the middle of the night without without telling her family where she was going.

Discrepancies about the water source

Courtier's daughter, Kailey Chambers, told CNN on Tuesday that her mother had hit her head early on in the hike, and then decided to stick close to a river so that she had a consistent water source.

Cashin, who works for the Washington County Sheriff's Search and Rescue, said it's likely Courtier would have died if she drank from that river for 12 days. 

Sgt. Darrell Cashin has questioned parts of the Courtier family's story of how Holly survived for nearly two weeks in Zion National Park.

"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," Cashin told ABC 4.

"She either took a lot of water with her or had another clean water source that was near here, but the Virgin River is not that source."

Cashin also told the local St. George News: "Had she been drinking that water, she would be extremely ill or passed on by now. If she did have a good water source, what was it?"

'Was she that bad or was she not?'

Cashin pointed out other discrepancies in the family's story.

Chambers told CNN that Courtier recounted that during her time in the park, she became so dehydrated that she couldn't open her mouth.

Cashin said this did not line up with Courtier's claim that she had been next to a water source the whole time.

"Was she that bad or was she not?" Cashin told St. George News.

The Virgin River in Zion National Park in November 2019.
George Rose/Getty Images

He also said that if Courtier had really hit her head, and if she was as dehydrated as she told her family, search-and-rescue teams would have immediately called an ambulance when they found her.

However, Zion officials had said in their statement that Courtier was "able to leave of her own capability with minimal assistance." Courtier spent the night at the hotel after she was found, CNN reported, though it is not clear who took her there.

"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," Cashin told ABC 4. "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."

"The statements that the family is giving and the statements that the park is giving don't add up," he added. "Those are the types of questions I think everybody has. I think the place where that question can be answered is with her."

Neither Courtier's daughter nor Zion National Park immediately responded to Insider's request for comment.

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