Mountain Loop exPress e-News Publication Covering the Greater Granite Falls Area

 

The Oso Mudslide – The Untold Stories

Apr 18, 2014 by

flags-at-half-staff_20140418

Flag flies at half staff against a chilling backdrop.

by Trisha Broughton, Mountain Loop exPress Staff

(OSO) – Nearly a month has passed since the fateful morning of the Oso Mudslide. Life was forever changed for hundreds of people and tragically, came to an abrupt end for what now is over three dozen others. There are four people remaining on the missing and unaccounted for list from the Sheriff’s office, but efforts toward recovery continue.

On Monday, April 14th, Governor Inslee issued a directive: that flags at all state facilities in Washington be lowered to half-staff beginning Tuesday, in memory of the victims. The public recognition of mourning will continue through the end of the day on April 22, one month to the day after the slide. Other government offices, businesses and individuals are encouraged to show their respect as well.

Addressing a gathering of business and community leaders at an April 16th Town Hall meeting, State Representative Dan Kristiansen shared his involvement and the heart-wrenching interactions with survivors. He discussed the search, rescue and recovery efforts by the professional and volunteer workers and the phenomenal job they’re doing at the Oso site.  Emotions were barely beneath the surface as he acknowledged some personal friends and acquaintances lost in the slide and the horrific undertaking of identifying the victims. He continued, saying, “As much professional training as anybody can go through to be prepared to do the job that they’re doing out there, you can’t train for what they’re being confronted with. We’ve got fantastic people in our first responders, rescuers and recovery team — but you can’t train for something like this.”

In the coming days, workers at the slide area will shift the focus of their search to the area south of the temporary berm. Experts say this area, which includes two of the total 21 search zones, offers the highest probability of search success. Since the SR530 slide March 22, the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office has identified 39 individual fatalities. Four more people remain on the list of missing.

As the search area narrows, the goal of the search crews remains the same: to find as many of the missing individuals for their families as possible. Since the berm was constructed, workers have drained the area of water from the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, which was backed up as a result of the slide blocking the river’s flow. The next step is to allow the area to dry out so workers can safely search it. Right now, the area is too dangerous to search. When the search will begin is weather dependent; the area may be dry enough to search by Friday, but this week’s rain could delay the timetable. This search will involve specially trained staff, and fewer workers than earlier search efforts, primarily for worker safety. Although the number of people involved in the search will be reduced, work will continue at all levels: local, state, tribal and federal. The “wide-area” search will continue, but on a smaller scale, while the work south of the berm will be a technical, targeted search. Search and rescue leaders think this approach offers the best chance to locate missing people.

Current plans call for the following teams to remain on site: a Snohomish County technical search team; a total of eight canine teams; Washington Task Force 1 to prepare for departure on April 19; up to 100 Washington National Guard soldiers to continue searching, with 15 to 20 trained as spotters (crews with specialized instruction that aid the National Guard); a Type 3 Incident Management team to arrive on April 21 and a Type 2 team to demobilize on April 24. An important related issue is re-establishing the vital SR530 transportation link between Darrington, Oso and Arlington. Search crews must complete their work in the area south of the berm before the Washington State Department of Transportation can evaluate the highway damage, begin clearing the highway and formulate a plan for making repairs.

As the search area narrows, individuals are strongly urged to stay away from the slide area. This area remains too dangerous for people to visit. While the search is shifting to a new phase, support for local residents and property owners will continue at the local, state, tribal and federal levels.

The response of the media and accounts of the mudslide have been overwhelming. In addition to those impacted directly — the victims and survivors — the event has understandably had an effect on countless numbers of people. Many of the stories have yet to be told. We are privileged to share with you a writing by Stacey Solie, “Into the Mud, Untold Stories of the Snohomish County Landslide“. This writing touches its readers at a level not yet explored — and does so with sensitivity, respect and dignity.

Stacey is is a journalist, editor and writing instructor, with a passion for writing about the PNW and other topics of interest to Washingtonians

Our heartfelt prayers continue to go out to the families and loved ones of the victims:

Confirmed Deceased:
Beivl, Alan M.
Bellomo, Shelley L.
Dequilettes, Ronald P.
Durnell, Thomas P.
Farnes, Adam M.
Farnes, Julie A.
Gulliksen, Bonnie J.
Gustafson, Mark J.
Halstead, Gloria J.
Halstead, Jerry L.
Harris, Denver M.
Heustis, Sonoah
Jefferds, Christina A.
Lennick, Amanda B.
Logan, Gerald E.
Mangual, Jovon E.
McPherson, Linda L.
Miller, Joseph R.
Miller, Larry J.
Miller, Sandra K.
Neal, Stephen A.
Pearson, Michael W.
Raffro, Summer R.
Regelbrugge III, Leon J.
Ruthven, Hunter
Ruthven, Katie F.
Ruthven, Shane M.
Ruthven, Wyatt M.
Satterlee, Mary M.
Satterlee, Thom E.
Slauson, Lon E.
Spillers, Billy L.
Spillers, Brooke
Spillers, Kaylee B.
Vandenburg, Judee S.
Vandenburg, Lewis F.
Ward, Brandy L.
Webb, Delaney M.
Welsh, William E.

Most recently, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit removed three additional names from the list of people reported missing as they have been identified by the Medical Examiner’s Office and placed on the list of confirmed victims.  Future updates to the list will be dependent on whether detectives have gathered sufficient information to add new names to the list, or if additional victims are recovered from the debris field and are identified.

Detectives carefully review each of these cases based on available information and conversations with family members. It is presumed that the people on this list are missing in connection with the landslide. Anyone who should not be on this list is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office tip line immediately at (425) 388-3845.

Confirmed Missing:
Hadaway, Steven N.
Harris, Steve
Harris, Theresa
Regelbrugge, Molly K.



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1 Comment

  1. Thank you Trisha for linking Stacey Solie’s story. It provides sensitive details of courage amidst the terrible tragedy.

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