Buena Vista community remembers family lost in rockslide

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BUENA VISTA, Colo. -- Three of the five family members who were killed on Sept. 30 in a Chaffee County rockslide were remembered Saturday in a memorial service.

Hundreds of mourners packed the Buena Vista High School gym, five days after Dwayne and Dawna Johnson and their 18-year-old daughter Kiowa-Rain died on a hiking trail near Nathrop.

Gracie Johnson, 13, who was injured in the slide, and her brother Dakota attended the service. Dakota thanked Buena Vista residents for their support.

"It is just amazing how this town came together," he said. "All the rescue effort, it's just been awesome. I can't thank you guys enough. We can't thank you guys enough."

One speaker told the crowd the Monday morning of the slide, "Dawned bright and beautiful, the same way many days start for all of us here in this special place we call home."

"What unfolded from that fateful moment," the speaker continued, "has been an unprecedented week of tragedy, grief, heroism, support, faith and strength."

Friends of the Johnsons paid tribute to a popular and deeply religious couple who were coaches at the high school among many other things.

"Dwayne was the kind of man who would give his time, energy and support, and loved anyone who needed it, especially a friend," one man said.

"They touched many lives and will be sorely missed by all those who knew and loved them," said another.

Mourners applauded emergency workers who responded to the slide, and after the service balloons on which some people had written messages were sent aloft in memory of three of Buena Vista's own.

Two of the Johnsons' nephews who also died in the slide, 10-year-old Baigen Walker and 22-year-old Paris Walkup, will be honored at a separate service in Missouri.

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