CASUALTY COUNT GROWS IN OSO AREA MUDSLIDE TRAGEDY
March 28, 2014
Update 3/28/14: Search officials at the Oso, Washington mudslide said Friday morning that besides the weather which is not cooperating, fatigue of the emergency responders, now in their seventh day is becoming a factor in the search for more victims in the mud and debris filled slide area.
Aerial view of where 16 million cubic tons of earth left go on Saturday March 22, 2014 causing one on the worst mudslide tragedies in state history. Larger image below.
LARGER IMAGE OF ABOVE: Aerial view of where 16 million cubic tons of earth left go on Saturday March 22, 2014 causing one on the worst mudslide tragedies in state history. CLICK TO ENLARGE.
"Fatigue of our responders up there, some of our folks have been up there since day one, and that's a huge concern for me and so we've brought in professionals to help out with making sure that our people's needs are taken care of," said Travis Hots, fire chief for Snohomish County Fire Districts 21 & 22 at a Friday morning news briefing.
Hots also acknowledged that the release of more information on the number of people that died in the tragedy is slow coming, but added that is a necessary part of this process.
"I know that the media has been reporting different numbers but as an offcial government spokesperson I get my information from the Snohomish County Medical Examiner's office," said HOTS.
As of the Friday morning news briefing search officials said the fatality count would stand for the moment at 17 with still 90 missing or unaccounted for.
FLOODING: The National Weather Service in Seattle has extended the Flood Warning for the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River just east of the landslide near Oso in north central Snohomish County until 6:00 pm Sunday.
The weather service says flooding continues for the North Fork of the Stillaguamish east of Oso due to the landslide March 22 that blocked the river and has resulted in pooling of water behind the landslide debris.
While the river is flowing through the blockage in a New Channel now, flooding of homes and roads upstream of the slide including State Route 530 will continue until the New River channel is deep and wide enough to drain the lake formed behind the blockage.
A new storm bringing from one half to two inches of rain to the area beginning today and lasting into Saturday will raise stream flows somewhat in the North Fork of the river and the downstream gage near Arlington is expected to rise from 4.4 ft to 5.8 ft midday Saturday. End update
(ARLINGTON, WA) -- At day seven in the recovery/search & rescue mission underway at the site of the massive one square mile mudslide near Oso, Washington on Saturday, the number of confirmed causalities of the tragedy, bodies recovered from the debris field has increased to 17.
That's the number the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed Thursday night. That latest number includes the body of an infant recovered Thursday.
“We understand there has been confusion over the reported number of fatalities,” said Travis Hots, fire chief for Snohomish County Fire District 22 in a statement. “This has been a challenging process for all of us. The sadness here is that we know this number will only increase.”
Newly identified casualties by the ME's office on Thursday of the Oso area mudslide included:
William E. Welsh, 66, of Arlington, Washington. Cause of death listed is blunt impact and the manner of death as accident.
Stephen A. Neal, 55, of Darrington, Washington. Mr. Welsh and Mr. Neal were reportedly doing work at the home work of Amanda Lennick, 31, in the Steelhead Drive neighborhood when the mudslide hit. Ms. Lennick remains missing.
Linda L. McPherson, 69 of Arlington, Washington, a long time school board member and librarian in Darrington. Cause of death listed is blunt impact and the manner of death as accident.
Kaylee B. Spillers, age 5, of Arlington, Washington. Cause of death listed is blunt impact and the manner of death as accident. Kaylee's father, her 2-year-old sister and a 13-year-old stepbrother are still missing.
An as of late Thursday night the number of missing and unaccounted for, 90 was unchanged from Wednesday.
John Pennington, Snohomish County's Emergency Management department director said Thursday that search officials are trying to determine if there is any legal reason not to release the names of the missing, as getting those names out there in the public might actually help solve the mystery of where some people are.
"The way it comes to me is, the number is 90 today, and I’m asking the question: ‘Are we able to get you guys to help us solve that puzzle of where some of these individuals are?’ ” commented Pennington during an evening news briefing in Arlington.
“That’s the next step for me, beginning tomorrow. I might fail miserably at that. There may be an attorney ... or a statute that just says, ‘Are you crazy? You can’t do that.’ ”
Regarding the number of fatalities from the slide, Fire Chief Travis Hots, of Snohomish County Fire Districts 21 and 22 said the number of dead would likely change by Friday’s 9 a.m. media briefing because medical examiners for the county are working to catch up with the bodies that have already been recovered.
More bodies were recovered in Thursday's search as crews were able to search through areas of the slide debris after water levels receded on the east side of the slide area. As the water level went down that in turn uncovered debris that up until yesterday had been inaccessible.
Search officials say it is quite possible not all victims of the huge mudslide will be found due to a variety of factors.