Sheriff’s Sgt. Says Circumstances ‘Do Not Add Up’ in Rescue of Woman Missing in Zion National Park

by Jennifer Shea

A California woman went missing in Utah’s Zion National Park and reportedly wandered around unseen by rescuers for 12 days. She finally turned up about half a mile from the parking area where someone last spotted her.

Now a sheriff’s sergeant involved in the search and rescue effort is raising questions about the woman’s account. Sgt. Darrell Cashin says Holly Courtier’s story doesn’t square with known facts, ABC4 News reported.

Zion Geography Lesson

“The statements that the family is giving and the statements that the park is giving don’t add up,” Cashin said.

Kailey Chambers, Courtier’s daughter, has claimed her mother banged her head on a tree and lost her way.

“She injured her head on a tree,” Chambers said, according to Fox News. “[Courtier] was very disoriented as a result and thankfully ended up near a water source — a river bed. She thought her best chance of survival was to stay next to a water source.”

Chambers claims her mother couldn’t move more than a few steps at a time because she was so weak.

“This prevented her from being able to seek out help. She told me she was so dehydrated she couldn’t open her mouth,” Chambers said.

But Cashin pointed out that the river Courtier claims to have followed was full of cyanobacteria from a toxic algal bloom. Additionally, if Courtier drank the water, she would have become seriously ill. If she didn’t drink the water, she would have died within three days.

And another thing: the river flows through the main part of the canyon, which many people traverse. It seems unlikely to Cashin she could have avoided detection there for 12 days.

“If she’s by the Virgin River, she’s down in the valley, not in the backcountry up in the plateaus and the peaks,” he said. “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.”

Suspicious Circumstances

Courtier reportedly left California in the middle of the night and neglected to tell her family where she was going. The former nanny had been traveling the country seeing national parks after she lost her job due to the pandemic, her daughter has said.

Cashin has 25 years of experience on search and rescue teams and has worked as an advanced EMT, according to ABC4. He further noted that Zion National Park officials said Courtier walked out on her own with little assistance and no ambulance was called for her head injury.

“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 said. “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.”