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After Colorado Rock Slide, Teams Struggle To Reach 5 Bodies

Residents of Buena Vista, Colo., are in shock after a rock slide on Monday that authorities say killed five people — possibly all from the same family.

The Denver Post says "a deadly cascade of boulders poured over Chaffee County's popular Agnes Vaille Falls [at] midmorning." The rocks came down on a popular hiking trail.

According to Denver's ABC7, "a Chaffee County deputy says a 13-year-old girl who is the lone survivor ... told him her father shielded her with his body as the rocks roared down." Some of the boulders were the size of cars, NBC News says. The site was still too unstable Monday for searchers to reach the bodies. They'll make another attempt Tuesday. But the local coroner, authorities say, was able to get close enough to see the condition of the five victims' remains and is certain they did not survive, NBC adds.

At Buena Vista High School on Monday evening, writes the local Chaffee County Times, "students wept openly" during a gathering in support of the survivor, middle school student Gracie Johnson.

The Times reports that while Chaffee County Sheriff Pete Palmer did not release the names of the five people who were killed, he did say that Gracie told authorities she was hiking with her family. Her father is a football coach in the school district. Her mother is a track coach. Gracie has at least two siblings, the Times says.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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