The sister of a California woman who claims she went missing in Zion National Park for 12 days with ‘no food and a tiny amount of water’ has revealed the mother of one fasted for days before she went on the solo hike without telling her family.
Holly Courtier, 38, was suddenly found in the park on Sunday after her family had raised more then $12,000 through a GoFundMe page to cover the expenses for the search.
The family said the funds are now going toward her medical expenses, as her sister Jamie Courtier-Strong told CBS that Holly lost 15 pounds while she was missing and ‘would have died for sure if we hadn’t found her’.
It comes after a local Utah sheriff cast doubt on Courtier’s version of events and claimed she could not have survived on the nearby infected river water.
GoFundMe also confirmed with DailyMail.com that they are investigating the family’s fundraising after the sheriff’s comments.
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Jamie Courtier-Strong said her sister Holly had been fasting before her hike and continued it as she started her trek but became weak and disorientated and got lost
Holly Courtier marked the number of days she was lost on a nearby tree
Holly Courtier was missing for 12 days in Zion National Park with no food and little water. She left for the hike in the middle of the night with no phone and without telling her family
The family claim that Courtier was found a half mile from where she had started on her solo trek by a mother and son hiking.
They spotted the hammock it was known Courtier had with her and placed a call into search and rescue.
Her sister now says that Courtier, an avid hiker, had planned to go off the grid, after leaving her home in Los Angeles for a solo trek in the middle of the night without telling her family.
Courtier took a shuttle bus to the park on October 6. She did not take her phone with her.
It’s unclear how long she intended to stay there.
‘Initially she wanted to be off the grid, she did not want to be off the grid for 12 days,’ Courtier-Strong told CBS. She added that her sister just wanted to ‘go and be with nature for a couple of days’.
Yet before she embarked on the hike, Courtier had been fasting for a few days and planned to continue that throughout her time in the park.
‘She became extremely weak very early on in the first day or two because she wasn’t eating or drinking,’ her sister said.
The family claims that at one point, the fasting made Courtier so weak that she hit her head off a tree, causing concussion and disorientation and preventing her from seeking help.
She instead drank water from a nearby river and marked the number of days she had been there on a nearby tree.
Holly Courtier was said to be an experienced hiker but had been fasting
Holly’s family raised more than $12,000 of their $15,000 goal. They say she needs medical care but the sheriff said she had no serious injuries when she was found on Sunday
Courtier had gone for a solo hike without a phone in Zion National Park
‘She was crying to me saying that she was just praying to be found,’ Courtier-Strong claimed. ‘She said that she felt like she was dying a slow death.’
She said that her sister has now learned her lesson about the dangers of going off the grid without letting anyone know beforehand.
‘When we explained to her that this is not a normal thing to do – you can go off the grid properly and not have people be concerned,’ she said.
‘I think she now understands that she didn’t mean to cause worry.’
The family was raising funds on the GoFundMe page saying that Courtier needs medical help after her disappearance. As of Thursday afternoon, they had disabled new donations to the page.
They have not specified what her injuries are but say they are for a hospital stay and therapy costs.
A GoFundMe spokesperson confirmed that the company’s Trust & Safety team is reviewing the fundraiser and has reached out to the organizer for more information.
They noted that the platform is protected by a guarantee that means donor funds are fulling protected and eligible for a full refund if GoFundMe, law enforcement or a user finds funds are misused.
The extensive search for Courtier was led by the National Parks Service
The local sheriff said the search for the mother of one went ‘above and beyond’
Her daughter Kailey pictured as she joined the search for her mother in Utah
On Monday, her sister told Good Morning America that Courtier was in hospital with an IV drip and bruising.
The National Park Service, who led the search for her, has not shared any details as to the kind of condition Holly was found in or what medical treatment she needs.
Family and friends will also be reimbursed for costs incurred during the search, the GoFundMe adds.
The woman does not have health insurance as she lost her job as a nanny due to the pandemic.
The family said she had taken the loss of her job as an opportunity to explore the national parks.
However, on Wednesday, Sgt. Darrell Cashin from the Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue said parts of Courtier’s story do not ‘add up’ and that there are ‘discrepancies to it.
He said she couldn’t have survived by drinking the water from the river where she was because it would have killed her, that she had no head injury like her family claimed, that she would have heard people calling her name and that there were questions over her ‘decision’ to enter the park.
‘The statements that the family is giving and the statements that the park is giving don’t add up.
‘Those are the types of questions I think everybody has. I think the place where that question can be answered is with her,’ he told ABC 4.
Holly Courtier, pictured, is said to have lost 15 pounds while she was missing
Holly, seen above in social media photos, is described by her family as an experienced hiker. She set off without her phone and had no food with her. The sheriff’s sergeant now says there are questions about why she went to the park – she left California on the middle of the night
He added that its unlikely no one found her or that she didn’t hear them as search parties looked for her, saying the teams who searched for her went ‘above and beyond’.
‘They even had GPS tracks of every trail, every part of the backcountry, and every valley they searched.
‘They had everything about Holly they possibly could’ve gotten to give an indication of what her behavior was like and where she might have gone.
‘Understand, there’s a lot of country up there. If you go off-trail, it will be virtually impossible to find somebody unless they want to be found.
‘If she’s by the Virgin River, she’s down in the valley, not in the backcountry up in the plateaus and the peaks.
‘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.’
Courtier’s daughter said she deliberately stayed close to a water source and that she drank from it.
Where Courtier was found was near Virginia River which Cashin said would have either killed her or made her ‘very ill’ because there are dangerously high levels of bacteria in the water.
‘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.
‘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,’ he said.
Sgt. Darrell Cashin said on Wednesday parts of Holly Courtier’s survival story ‘don’t add up’
He also said she did not have a head injury that would have been consistent with her hitting it on a tree, as her daughter claimed she did.
‘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. 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.
‘Physically, she seemed to be in a condition that did not warrant an ambulance and they felt was comfortable to release her to her family to address,’ he said.
Courtier herself has not been seen or heard from since she was rescued.
Her daughter Kailey told CNN on Monday that she saw her Monday morning and she is weak but recovering.