TODAY   |  October 01, 2013

Dad may have shielded teen from deadly rockslide

The lone survivor of the Colorado rockslide that buried five people under tons of rock was a teenage girl whose father may have sacrificed his own life to protect her, according to the local sheriff’s office. NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez reports.

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>> rescue operation for a group of hikers now turned into a recovery mission after a deadly landslide on a popular hiking trial. gabe gutierrez is there with the latest. good morning.

>> good morning, the sheriff here says the five hikers are buried under tons of rock. the only survivor, a teenager, who this morning is recovering in a children's hospital in denver. and we are hearing more about how her father may have sacrificed his own life to save hers.

>> reporter: the urgent rescue operation followed a terrifying rock slide .

>> there was a cliff bank above the falls and it looks like it slid off.

>> reporter: five hikers are presumed dead . the lone survivor 13 -year-old tracy johnson who they lifted to safety.

>> looking underneath and everything of looking for anybody that survived it and i heard a small girl cry out. and i could only see her hand coming out through the boulders. i immediately went over there and started tossing off the boulders.

>> reporter: he says the girl's father threw himself in harms way to shield his daughter.

>> i'm glad that she survived and her dad is a real hero. really saved her life.

>> reporter: around 11:00 a.m . monday the group was hiking about 120 miles southwest of denver on a popular trail to the agnes vaille falls in the san isabelle national forest . it's a 14,000 foot peak. the slide was several football fields wide. some boulders bigger than cars.

>> there are rocks in there that the engineers estimated weigh over 100 tons.

>> the sheriff says recent rains and freezing temperatures may have made the terrain unstable.

>> we are at a bit of a loss right now just exactly how we're going to move the boulders.

>> the recovery effort could resume later today once engineers determine that the ground is safe. meanwhile, authorities have not publicly identified the five hikers who died. natalie.

>> such a add story there.