Holly Courtier

Sister of Missing Zion Hiker Says Her Survival Without Food and Water Was ‘a Miracle'

Holly Courtier's sister said "there is no reason she should be alive" after Courtier survived 12 days without food and water in Utah's Zion National Park

National Park Service/Getty Images

The sister of the missing hiker who survived 12 days in Utah's Zion National Park without any food or water said her survival is nothing short of "a miracle."

Holly Suzanne Courtier, 38, was found by a visitor who alerted park officials on Sunday after the Los Angeles woman had been reported missing since Oct. 8 inside the 229-square-mile park.

Jaime Strong, 41, spoke to TODAY about what Courtier endured, her current physical and mental state, and the joy and concern she felt when she first saw her sister.

"I think God got her through this," Strong said. "I think it's a miracle. I truly believe there is no reason she should be alive. It doesn't make sense. She didn't have the proper gear, and she didn't have food or water."

Strong said her sister lost between 15 and 18 pounds after not eating or drinking for at least 12 days. In addition, Courtier had not eaten for a few days prior to going to Zion National Park on Oct. 6 because she had gone on a planned fast.

"When I walked in the room and saw how emaciated she was, I lost it," Strong said. "It was like seeing someone who had aged 30 years in 12 days. It was horrific, but at that point I was so happy to see her it didn't matter."

Courtier's daughter, Kailey Chambers, said in a statement to NBC News on Tuesday that her mother stayed near a river bed, but Strong clarified that Courtier didn't actually drink any water from the river other than wetting her lips and spitting it back out.

"She said she didn't have anything to drink at all," Strong said. "She was very well aware of the toxins in the river. There was a statement made that she said she set up camp because she wanted to stay close to the river, but we were never implying that she drank the water."

Courtier has checked herself into a mental wellness center since being rescued, according to her sister. She had planned to be in the park for only a day or two for "a journey of fasting" and to disconnect from technology without a cell phone while reading her Bible.

"I don't think that her mental state was good when she went into the park," Strong said. "I really think she had a mental breakdown and was not in the right state of mind when she decided to take this journey and not tell people where she was going."

Courtier kept track of the days by marking them with a Sharpie on a tree branch.

Courtier had lost her job as a nanny before the pandemic in addition to other factors that may have contributed to her mental health issues, Strong said.

"She has definitely been through some trauma over the past several years," Strong said. "I don't think she's properly dealt with it and gotten the proper help for it, and now is the time."

Courtier, who is a seasoned hiker, experienced severe dehydration and suffered a concussion that caused her to be disoriented, Strong said.

She was only wearing leggings and a T-shirt and had a thin blanket and sweater with her as she endured nighttime temperatures in the 40s.

At one point, Courtier saw another person but was so dehydrated that she couldn't open her mouth to yell for help, her sister said.

She was found on the day park rangers told her family they were winding down the active search and the chances of finding her alive were slim. Strong's husband saw rangers taking down missing signs for Courtier and angrily asked them why, only to find out it was because she had been rescued.

Strong also addressed a statement by the National Park Service saying Courtier was able to "leave of her own capability with minimal assistance" after being found.

"It's just so blown blown out of proportion," Strong said. "When you think you're going to die and you see a ranger, she said she literally got like giddy inside because she knew she was going to see her daughter and her family, so you definitely have some adrenaline working for you at that point."

She said Courtier had a ranger standing behind her in case she fell from weakness and had to stop every 5 feet to sit down and rest. Courtier was taken to the hospital by her family, not an ambulance.

"She was very scared and traumatized, and she wanted to leave the park in my car with me and my husband and her daughter, and we drove her straight to the emergency room, so things have just been twisted," Strong said.

Strong and her family are just grateful to the park rangers, authorities and volunteers from the community of Springdale for helping Courtier return to them.

"I think that's what carried her through was people praying for her," Strong said. "I've never seen so many kind people."

This story first appeared on TODAY.com. More from TODAY:

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