Hundreds gather to honor Buena Vista family killed by massive rock slide

BUENA VISTA, Colo. - More than a thousand people gathered in a small Colorado mountain town Saturday to remember five members of the same family who were killed by a massive rock slide on a popular hiking trail.

Monday's slide across the trail to Agnes Vaille Falls in south-central Colorado's San Isabel National Forest killed Dwayne Johnson, 46, Dawna Johnson, 45, and their 18-year-old daughter, Kiowa-Rain Johnson, all of Buena Vista.

The other victims were identified as Baigen Walker, 10, and Paris Walkup, 22, both of Birch Tree, Mo. They were nephews of Dwayne and Dawna Johnson.

"Little did we know, life would change at that moment," Johnson family friend Mike Carr said during the memorial service held in the Buena Vista High School auditorium.

The Chaffee County Times reports ( http://bit.ly/1fRcrJ1) Dwayne's presence as a community father figure, Dawna's feisty personality and Kiowa-Rain's smile were frequently mentioned by the friends and family members who addressed the somber crowd.

"We all knew and were touched by the lives of Dwayne, Dawna and Kiowa," Carr said.

Dwayne and Dawna Johnson were football and track coaches, respectively, in Buena Vista schools, and were well known in the town and very active in community events.

"The way he coached was the way he lived his life," retired Buena Vista football coach Bob Marken said, recalling his friend as an always-helpful and generous man whose faith was present even on the football field.

Marken said Dwayne's prayers would start with Jesus and end with "now help us kick our opponent's ass and keep us safe."

Dawna also was remembered for developing close community ties through her work with students, and Kiowa-Rain, who turned 18 two days before her death, was remembered as a loyal friend and peacemaker with a perpetual smile.

The teenager's relationship with her father was highlighted in a letter he wrote for her birthday, a letter read aloud by her older brother Dakota. The letter contained words of advice to Kiowa-Rain as she became an adult. Among them: "dream big," "develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ" and "deep, meaningful relationships bring happiness."

Dakota left the service carrying the ashes of his parents and younger sister in a wood box. Atop the box sat a small vial containing ashes of his two cousins, who were visiting from Missouri at the time of the slide.

The slide also injured 13-year-old Gracie Johnson, who attended Saturday's memorial wearing a cast on her leg and using a walker. She told rescuers her father saved her when he jumped on top of her as boulders began to crash down around them.

Separate services are being organized for the nephews in Missouri.
 

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