Rescuers deal with heartbreaking work as they search for mudslide victims
Darrington Fire District 24 volunteer firefighters, Jeff McClelland, left, Jan McClelland, center, and Eric Finzimer embrace each other Wednesday, March 26, 2014, in Darrington, Wash., after saying a prayer for the victims and survivors of black converse the massive mudslide. They were among the first responders to the mudslide. (AP Photo/The Seattle Times, Marcus Yam) SEATTLE OUT; USA TODAY OUT; MAGS OUT; TELEVISION OUT; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT TO BOTH THE SEATTLE TIMES AND MARCUS YAM
AP Photo/The Seattle Times, Marcus Yam SEATTLE OUT; USA TODAY OUT; MAGS OUT; TELEVISION OUT; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT TO BOTH THE SEATTLE TIMES AND MARCUS YAM
DARRINGTON, Wash. As firefighter Jeff McClelland uncovered a body on the moon like surface that blankets what used to be the community of Oso, he soon realized that the search party had a close connection to the victim: The dead man son and brother were among the volunteers scouring the debris field.
The relatives sat beside the body as it was zipped into a bag. McClelland found himself overcome with tears.
The discovery served as a touching reminder of the deeply emotional work that is playing out in this tight knit town as rescuers like McClelland search for bodies in the muck and devastation, hoping to at least bring some closure to the relatives and friends of those who have not been found.
can go home and eat some food, hug my wife, come in and hug my friends the next morning and say, go again. We got something to do. We got a job to do, so let go do it, McClelland said, recalling his thoughts on Wednesday.
Scores of people once thought missing in the mudslide have turned up safe, but that provided little relief to rescuers like McClelland who are tasked with bringing closure to the relatives and friends of those who have not been found.
Hope of a miracle discovery of a survivor has faded as the search entered its sixth day Thursday, replaced by acknowledgement that some families may not be able to bury a body.
Becky Bach watches and waits, hoping that search crews find her brother, his wife, her 20 year old great niece and the young girl fiance.
I honestly don think they going to find them alive, Bach said, crying. as a family, we trying to figure out what to do if they find no bodies. Massingale waits too, for word about his 4 month old granddaughter. Searchers were able to identify carpet from the infant bedroom, but a log jam stood in the way of a more thorough effort to find little Sanoah Huestis, known as stressful to think about, he said. little baby that hasn gotten a start yet in life. It too much. found another body late Wednesday, said Brian McMahan, a landslide incident spokesman.
Trying to recover every corpse would be impractical and dangerous.
The debris field is about a square mile and 30 to 40 feet deep in places, with a surface that includes quicksand like muck, rain slickened mud and ice. The terrain is difficult to navigate on foot and makes it treacherous or impossible to bring in heavy equipment. black converse
To make matters worse, the pile is laced with other hazards that include fallen trees, propane and septic tanks, twisted vehicles and countless shards of shattered homes.
The knowledge that some victims could be abandoned to the earth is difficult to a black converse ccept.
have to get on with our lives at some point, Bach said.
Bach spoke via phone about a wedding the family had planned for summer at the rural home that was destroyed. And how, she wondered, do you plan a funeral without a body? probably just have a memorial, and if they find the bodies eventually, then we deal with that then. death certificate, issued by the state, is legal proof that someone has died. Families often need them to settle their affairs black converse . If and when it appears there is no chance of finding someone, people can ask the county to start that process.
Two Washington National Guard Blackhawk helicopters arrived at the site Wednesday to relieve sheriff helicopter crews that had been working since Saturday.
The Blackhawks sole mission is body removal, said Bill Quistorf, chief pilot for the Snohomish County Sheriff Office.
Other survivors began to grow impatient Wednesday that they weren allowed to return to the sites of their homes to search for their valuables and keepsakes.
isn right. All of us who are still alive need to have access and find what we can of our lives, said Robin Youngblood, who said her son in law was turned away from the slide site.
Baumann reported from Seattle. Solomon Banda in Darrington, Wash.; and photographer Elaine Thompson in Oso, Wash.; and researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed to this report.