A 19-year-old San Luis Obispo woman died Tuesday in a rock slide while camping with her family in southeastern Utah.
Christine Elizabeth Allen had just completed her freshman year at Wyoming Catholic College and was traveling back to California with her parents when they stopped to camp at Kane Creek near Moab, Utah.
The camping area is in a canyon surrounded by sloping rock walls, according to San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge.
Allen was climbing a wall about 8 p.m. when she sat on a large sandstone rock about 15 feet in diameter, Eldredge said. The face of the rock broke from the wall, taking Allen and several rocks with it. She fell approximately 20 feet in the slide, and other, smaller rocks fell on her, inflicting severe internal and external injuries to her abdomen and pelvis.
Allen’s mother saw the accident happen, Eldredge said, and Allen died at the scene.
Eldredge said that while San Juan County sometimes sees avalanches in the winter, a rockslide such as this is extremely uncommon.
“It was really a freak thing,” he said.
Allen’s parents, Debby and Andy Allen, attend Old Mission Church in San Luis Obispo. Officials at the church declined comment, saying the Rev. Russell Brown is planning to meet with the family first.
Christine Elizabeth Allen was one of the family’s seven children, according to Wyoming Catholic College’s files.
With just 116 students, the tight-knit community of Wyoming Catholic College has been “hard hit” by the loss of Allen, said Jeremy Holmes, academic dean of the school.
Holmes, who taught Allen during a theology course in the fall, described her as popular, sweet and gentle.
“It was impossible not to like her,” he said. She wrote her term paper on the meaning and value of suffering.
During a required course on horsemanship at the school, Allen stood out for her skills and ended up becoming a co-teacher for the session.
In San Luis Obispo County, Allen had been home-schooled, according to a source close to her family.
She was an accomplished public speaker and an eight-year 4-H member, and was mentioned several times in The Tribune for her honors. Among them: participating in the Central Coast Lions Club Student Speaker contest in Arroyo Grande in March 2012, and receiving first place in public speaking at the 2010 National Western Roundup, National 4-H Horse Classic, Western Division, in Denver.
For each of her five years raising and showing beef cattle, Allen donated each animal’s meat to the Food Bank Coalition of SLO County, according to Kristin O’Reilly of San Luis Obispo, a former Edna 4-H club leader who worked with Allen.
Allen also regularly served food at the Prado Day Center for the homeless.
“Christine was always connecting people and making them feel welcome,” O’Reilly said.
A Mass was held Wednesday in honor of Allen and her family at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Lander, Wyo.