Active search through Washington landslide debris ends

April 29, 2014

The large debris pile left by the mudslide seen in Oso earlier this month. (Max Whittaker/Reuters)

After 38 days, the active search through the mud and debris left behind by the devastating landslide in Washington state has ended.

Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary announced the news on Monday, putting an end to an active search that had, at one point, expanded to include hundreds of people scouring the wide and treacherous landslide site.

The massive slide demolished homes and ravaged a stretch of Washington state on March 22, killing 41 people and leaving two still identified as missing as of this week.

Workers navigated an incredibly difficult environment stretched out over an unusually large area, using their bare hands and shovels to dig through a gnarly field of debris, mud, wreckage and dangerous liquids. No survivors were located amid the carnage after the day the landslide struck, but despite that, rescue workers pressed on to try and find any survivor as well as to locate the bodies trapped in the debris.

Two people remained on the missing list as of last week: Steve Hadaway, 53, and Molly “Kris” Regelbrugge, according to the county. Frank Hadaway, one of Steve’s brothers, told the Seattle Times that he understood the decision to call off the active search.

“The amazing thing is that of 43 people who were lost, 41 were found,” he said. “So, do I have an issue? No. Reality is reality. We knew this day was coming sooner or later.”

Still, even as the active search ends and the process of removing the debris begins, officials noted that some search efforts will continue. Workers in the field will try to identify any property that might still be tangled in the debris. And the active search could resume if workers are able to access areas they had not been able to reach before.

Mark Berman is a reporter on the National staff. He runs Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and developing stories from around the country.
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