The sister of missing hiker Holly Courtier has hit back at criticisms of her sibling’s story about disappearing for 12 days in Utah‘s Zion National Park — saying suggestions that her survival tale was hoax are “very blown out of proportion.”
“There are not holes in the story, there are no discrepancies. It just got blown very out of proportion,” her sister Jaime Strong told The Spectrum.
Search crews canvassed the park for 38-year-old Courtier after she went for a hike and left behind her phone Oct. 6.
“She definitely was having a mental breakdown,” Strong told the outlet. “She told us later she was seeking a total disconnect from everything. She really just wanted to be alone. She had no idea it would turn into anything it would turn into or the worry she would cause or what it would become.”
Once there, Courtier began fasting from food as part of a spiritual journey because she wanted to “connect with nature and read her Bible,” Strong said. But she had gone on an exhausting hike the first day, likely weakening her state.
She attempted to set up her hammock but fell when she went to sit, hitting her head on a tree and apparently suffered a concussion, Strong said.
Strong said Courtier stayed by a river and used the water to wet her mouth.
That claim has been called into question by Washington County Sgt. Darrell Cashin, since the river is contaminated.
“The Sherriff’s sergeant has made it 10 times worse for [Kailey],” Strong said. “I’ve never even seen him or met him. This is someone who looked at some paperwork and looked at things on paper. He wasn’t there. I think it might be easy to look at a few things on paper and make conclusions.”
Strong said the sergeant has “taken something and blown it out of proportion and the attention has gone to him.”
“We never said she drank the water. He made it look like there’s a hole in the story and there wasn’t,” she said.
Courtier was too dehydrated to call out to search crews, according to her sister — but someone ultimately spotted her Oct. 18 off the trail near the popular Emerald Pools hiking area.
“I’m just glad we found her and reunited with our family,” Zion spokesperson Amanda Rolland told the outlet.