The younger sister of a California woman who was found alive in Zion National Park has shared more details about Holly Suzanne Courtier’s mysterious 12-day disappearance.
Courtier was reported missing on October 8 and found alive on October 18 after a hiker spotted her and contacted authorities. On October 6, she had arrived via shuttle bus to a parking lot near hiking trails, her last known location before she went missing.
Courtier’s family members have said that the 38-year-old woman was in grave physical condition when she was found, and had been disoriented, weak, malnourished and severely dehydrated during the time she was missing in the national park. Courtier’s 19-year-old daughter said her mother hit her head on a tree shortly after arriving, and other family members have said Courtier was fasting prior to traveling to Utah from her home in southern California.
A law enforcement source and a park official have called Courtier’s family’s stories into question, noting that Courtier was apparently well enough to leave the park on her own. Last week, Courtier’s daughter told CNN that her mother had chosen to stay close to a water source, believed to be the Virgin River, as she thought it would be her best chance for survival.
Later, Sgt. Darrell Cashin of the Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team, which had a minor role in the search for Courtier, told a local media outlet that Courtier would have almost certainly become very ill and could have died if she drank from the Virgin River, which has high levels of toxic amoebae. He also noted that the area near the Virgin River is popular among park visitors, appearing to question how Courtier avoided detection during the 10-day search. Park officials communicated Courtier’s disappearance widely, including with the use of missing persons bulletins throughout Zion National Park.
In response to the sheriff’s sergeant’s comments, Courtier’s sister Jamie Strong told Today.com that the earlier statement about why Courtier stayed near the river was misunderstood, and the Courtier did not swallow any of the river water, knowing that it was toxic. She took water only to wet her dry mouth, Strong said, and spit it back out.
Strong also told Today.com that Courtier went straight to an emergency room after her rescue, and had since checked into a mental wellness center, but did not specify what day Courtier went to the facility.
Another sister, Jillian Oliver, told the Los Angeles Times that Courtier’s roommate reported her missing, and investigators were able to trace Courtier to Zion National Park because she had used a credit card to purchase entry to the park. Though Courtier’s sister Jamie Strong had earlier said that Courtier was not in a good mental health state when she traveled to Utah, Oliver told the newspaper that Courtier seemed to be in good spirits when she stopped by for a visit a few days before the trip.
As other family members have said, Oliver told the Los Angeles Times that Courtier did not mention she was planning to go to Zion National Park when they last saw each other, and said also that Courtier had begun fasting by that time.
“She gave me a big hug and said, ‘I love you so much,’” as they parted, Oliver said. “She seemed a little choked up. Like she wasn’t going to see us for maybe a few weeks or something.”
Oliver reportedly said she felt optimistic that Courtier might have been able to better tolerate being without food because she had often fasted before.
Oliver told the newspaper that the family members reunited at a sister’s house on Tuesday. The report does not indicate whether she mentioned where Courtier is now. The rescued hiker has not yet commented publicly on her disappearance.
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