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Investigators question story of hiker found in Zion National Park, say statements ‘don’t add up’

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LOS ANGELES (KCAL/KCBS) – A Southland, California woman who vanished while hiking in Utah was safe at home Thursday after spending 12 days alone in Zion National Park, but investigators said they were finding inconsistencies in the stories they’ve gotten from her family and the park.

“Every day she’s doing better and better,” Jaime Courtier-Strong, the woman’s sister said. “She was lost and she needed to be found. She would have died.”

Holly Courtier was found safe on Sunday, though malnourished and down 15 pounds, according to Courtier-Strong.

But a sergeant who was involved in assisting with the search has called into question some of the family’s story.

“The statements that the family is giving and the statements the park is giving don’t add up,” Sgt. Darrell Cashin, with the Washington County Sheriff’s Department, said to the ABC station in Salt Lake City.

Authorities said Courtier was found half a mile from where a shuttle had dropped her off on Oct. 6.

“She’s in the main part of the canyon, which always has thousands of people walking up and down those trails,” Cashin said to local reporters. “I’m sure people walked by yelling for her.”

Courtier-Strong said a mother and son did eventually spot her sister’s hammock and called in a tip, but she said Courtier initially went into her trip looking for solitude and had fasted several days before.

RELATED | Rescued hiker was dehydrated, hurt and ‘praying to be found’ in Zion National Park, her sister says

During the hike, Courtier-Strong said her sister became disoriented and hit her head on a tree. Unable to get help, the family said she kept track of the passing days on a nearby branch.

“Initially she wanted to be off the grid,” Courtier-Strong said. “She did not want to be off the grid for 12 days.”

Immediately after she was found, it was reported that Courtier may have drank water from a nearby river to stay hydrated, but family members say that was not the case.

“She was very well aware of the toxins in the water,” Courtier-Strong said. “What’s really unfortunate about it is that this has caused people to judge her and our family’s character and that’s just really sad out of an event like this when we’re just happy to have her alive.”

The family’s GoFundMe page, which has raised more than $12,000, has also been put into question. The family said the money would go to search and rescue efforts as well as medical and therapy costs.

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