Students wept openly during a vigil at Buena Vista High School Monday evening in support of 13-year-old student Gracie Johnson, who was injured in a rockslide that killed five other people.
“We’re still hoping for the best, but we’re prepared for the worst,” Buena Vista High School Principal Brian Yates said.
Dozens attended the vigil, where counselors, school staff and community members came together to comfort students. The gathering was somber, adults dabbed tears from their eyes as students cried in each others’ arms.
“We know that the community pulls together,” Yates said. “People like to support each other in a small community. That’s one of the best parts of a small community.”
Yates said word of the tragedy “spread quickly,” prompting the school to open its doors as a community gathering place as they awaited official information about the other rockslide victims.
Chaffee County Sheriff Pete Palmer confirmed that Johnson was flown by helicopter to Children’s Hospital in Denver.
Palmer reported that five other people died in the rockslide. The identities of the deceased have not been released.
Johnson was hiking with her family at the time of the rockslide, Palmer confirmed. Her medical condition is unknown, but Palmer said he did not think her injuries were life threatening.
Yates reported that the Johnson family is well-known in Buena Vista schools.
Johnson’s father, Dwayne Johnson, is a football coach and her mother Dawna Johnson is a track coach with the school district, Yates said. Johnson’s sister, Kiowa Rain Johnson, is a senior at Buena Vista High School. Johnson’s brother, Dakota Johnson, graduated from Buena Vista High School in 2012.
Counselors from West Central Mental Health, Buena Vista Correctional Complex, the Buena Vista school district and Cornerstone Church were on hand for support, Yates said, and additional counselors will be present when school resumes Tuesday.
The community is invited to gather at Cornerstone Church, which will open its doors at 7 a.m. Tuesday, Cornerstone Youth Pastor Leslie Quilico said.
Quilico said the Johnsons are members of Cornerstone Church.