Mudslide Witness: There Were 'Belongings All Over The Road'

Mar 24, 2014

A house is seen destroyed in the mud on state Route 530 next to mile marker 37 on Sunday, March 23, 2014, the day after a giant landslide occurred near Oso, Washington.
A house is seen destroyed in the mud on state Route 530 next to mile marker 37 on Sunday, March 23, 2014, the day after a giant landslide occurred near Oso, Washington.
Credit AP Photo/The Seattle Times, Lindsey Wasson, Pool

Search and rescue crews enter their third day after the 1-square-mile mudslide wiped out dozens of homes in Oso — a town of about 200 people between Arlington and Darrington in Snohomish County.

As of Monday morning, officials said they have recovered eight bodies and will continue to search for dozens of people still missing.

The mudslide critically injured several people including a baby who was airlifted to Harborview hospital.

Sierra Sansaver was one of the people who rushed to the scene where they found a house in the middle of state Route 530.

“It was torn to pieces. There was belongings all over the road, and everybody started showing up, and they started hearing a little kid screaming,” she said. “And that’s when everybody ran out there, and they found a 6-month-old baby. The baby was blue when I saw.”

At a news conference on Sunday, Governor Jay Inslee praised rescue personnel and what they had done on Saturday.

“They rescued at least seven people, both through airlift and on-the-ground efforts,” Inslee said. “But some of them who went in literally got caught in up to their armpits and had to be dragged out by ropes themselves. It’s just a physical impossibility of supporting the human weight in a slurry. That is a problem right now.”

When a woman at the news conference asked if crews were still hearing voices, she explained her uncle was buried in the debris.

Snohomish County Executive John Lovick said no voices were heard as of Sunday.

“With respect to hearing voices, one of the things that we were in fact told is that there were noises in that area. People were calling out,” Lovick said. “And we made the decision — I should say, our Fire Chief Travis Hots made the decision that it was too risky to put people in that area. We have not heard any reports of people hearing voices today or after last night.”

Hours after Lovick’s comment, Snohomish County Fire said crews had found another body.

Chad Buechler, a Red Cross volunteer at a shelter set up at Post Middle School in Arlington, said 27 people spent the night there on Saturday.

“Some of the folks that are here with us that we’re helping, their houses were destroyed or damaged by the slide,” he said. “Other than that we’re here for people that are affected by the evacuation recommendation that the local public safety and emergency management folks put out.”

People kept walking up and offering things. One man said he could take in horses while others came to give a WiFi setup.

Buechler said the most impressive thing is that people who need things, and people who came to help know each other by name.

“And people are just asking, ‘Do you know where my family is?’ And waiting for information about where their mom or dad or son or daughter is at this time. And they just don’t know. And it’s hard to see that,” he said.

While crews continue their search, those who are affected can do nothing but wait.

“There’s nothing we can do to go out there because we’ll be risking our lives,” Sansaver said. “I think whoever lives around that area where they vacated everybody, the people that don’t don't want to leave their houses, they really should. It’s dangerous.”