There was a collective sigh of relief when Holly Courtier, a 38-year-old mom from Woodland Hills, was rescued after 12 days missing in Utah’s Zion National Park last month. Now, local authorities are looking into the possibility that the whole thing was staged to take in thousands of dollars from well-wishers on GoFundMe.
Initially, Courtier’s family told police and the media that she had hit her head on a tree and became disoriented on the first day of her hike and then survived near the Virgin River unable to take more than a few steps without collapsing. However, to Sergeant Darrell Cashin of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Courtier’s story raised “discrepancies and questions that do not add up,” the Salt Lake Tribune reports.
A press release from the sheriff’s office states, “These inconsistencies raised some questions as to the authenticity of the events as reported to law enforcement,” adding that the department “stands behind” Cashin’s “observations and statements.”
Cashin says he first saw red flags when he learned that Courtier was able to leave the park without the help of rescuers or medical personnel and when her sister, Jamie Strong, told the Today Show that Courtier never drank from the Virgin River because she knew it was toxic from an algae bloom.
While the sheriff’s office says, “Numerous tips have been received indicating the incident was possibly conceived and carried out as part of a plan to fraudulently generate money to a GoFundMe account for Courtier’s recovery,” it also concedes that it has “no evidence to support the theory that the incident was committed intentionally as an effort to achieve financial gain.”
Courtier’s GoFundMe page, started by Strong, had raised nearly $12,000 before Strong stopped accepting donations.
In an October 22 update, Strong writes, “Holly has suffered from mental health issues in the past and went on her hike not in the best frame of mind. She did not intend to become injured or so weak on her journey. Nor did she intend for her trip to become a search and rescue effort. If Holly was not found when she was, she would have died.”
As for the money raised, Strong says part of it will be used to reimburse “the family and friends’ costs” expended during the search, and “to cover the medical care applied to Holly during her hospital stay as well as therapy costs moving forward.”
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