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Utahns called to help search efforts for missing Zion hiker

Posted at 10:05 PM, Oct 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-17 00:29:36-04

ZION NATIONAL PARK — The family of a missing hiker in Zion National Park is asking Utahns for help, as the National Park Service continues to look for Holly Courtier, last seen more than a week ago.

Her family fears she is hurt, but unable to get help.

"We are on crucial time at this point. She can't survive much longer out there," Holly's daughter Kailey Chambers said.

Holly has been missing for 10 days, and there's been hardly any sign of where she might be. At a volunteer command post in a conference center at the Cliffrose Lodge in Springdale, someone sat and watched a video feed of the drone search. A volunteer explained that the drone was focusing on searching a backcountry area.

Supplies like binoculars, flashlights, backpacks and water bottles sat on a table at the ready for volunteer hikers.

Holly's family anxiously awaited any sort of news.

"It's emotional," Kailey said. "It's hard to be in that state of mind of having hope that we find her, but also having to prepare for the worst."

No one knew where in Zion Holly planned to explore when she arrived on a road trip from her home in California. Kailey said Holly recently lost her job because of COVID-19, and took it as a sign from God to pursue her dream of converting a van to travel the country and visit national parks.

They knew that Holly wanted to hike and connect with nature in Zion.

"She was an avid hiker. Anytime that she had free time, she was out-- even in California, hiking," Kailey explained. "So, this was something that was very close to her heart."

Kailey said she spent the weekend with her mom before the trip. A few days later on October 6, Holly boarded a shuttle and headed into Zion National Park. According to the National Park Service and family, Holly got off in the Grotto area.

Kailey said a family thinks they saw Holly start up the Kayenta Trail, which could mean that Holly was headed toward the Emerald Pools, Angel's Landing, or West Rim Trail.

While Holly didn't have her cell phone on her, Kailey said her mom was prepared with other items should something happen.

Holly's best friend, Dante Orpilla, says trying to cover such a large area is intimidating and overwhelming. He said the search so far has been extensive.

"Right now, our search is focused on a theory that she kind of fell and hurt herself and that she is in an area where nobody can see her," he said.

While the National Park Service is taking the lead on the search, which Dante said has included helicopters and drones, they are hoping that experienced hikers who know the area can help.

Plus, he and Kailey described needing resources for volunteers like food, supplies and lodging.

Some Utahns have already stepped up.

"I heard that call, and I knew I could be of service," said Ivins resident Michelle Delloso.

She is the founder of the Rim to Rim Club, and called upon her expert hiking community to join.

Michelle said she's been out there for three days now, hiking in different areas and looking through her binoculars. She said she is searching from a "hiker's perspective."

In addition to hiking, Michelle described being able to help the family familiarize themselves with the area and the hiking trails. She said the more resources the community can provide and alleviate stress on the family's end, the more focus can be on helping the family find comfort and peace.

"We prayed with her daughter that first night. I mean, just comforting her like, 'We're helping. We all care about you. This is how our community cares about you,'" Michelle recounted. "'And we'll do anything we can to help you.'"

Doing anything they can to help-- while hanging on to hope they'll find Holly alive.

Dante said if he could send Holly a message, he would tell her, "Just stay alive. Just fight... we'll find you."

"I want her to keep fighting, and I want her to know that we are looking for her," Kailey said. "And we're not going to stop."

The family has set up a website with the latest updates, how the public can help with the search, and a fundraising page to help them with supplies. Click here to learn more.