Officials Raise Death Toll to 29 in Washington State Mudslide Tragedy

Before-and-after photo of the mudslide area (BING/AP)
Before-and-after photo of the mudslide area (BING/AP)

Officials have now confirmed the deaths of 29 people in the mudslide in rural Washington state, although only 22 have been officially identified in information released Wednesday morning by the Snohomish County medical examiner’s office.

They range in age from 4-month-old Sonoah Heustis to 71-year-old Lewis F. Vandenburg. A total of 20 people are missing. They range in age from 2-year-old Brooke Sillers to Bonnie J. Gullikson, 91. Some of the missing and dead are related.

Floodwaters are receding at the site of the massive mudslide that crushed the rural Oso, Wash., community, allowing crews to expand their search and yielding more human remains in areas that previously couldn’t be reached. The views presented Tuesday on a media tour were chilling: shredded homes and twisted cars.

More than 10 days after a large section of a rain-soaked hill crashed down on a neighborhood in the small community of Oso, teams with cadaver dogs are still sifting through debris and soil to determine exactly how many people died in the March 22 mudslide.

The mudslide had dammed up the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, causing water to pool. Heavy rain last week added to the flooding. But on Tuesday, the weather was dry and sunny again. With the rain stopped, at least for a few days, the floodwaters are receding, which is allowing more crews to switch from water pumping to searching.

“A lot of logjam areas, that’s where we’re finding human remains,” search effort division supervisor Steve Harris said on Tuesday.

From a vantage point about a mile from the collapsed hillside, the magnitude of the slide is chilling, even if only a part of it can be seen. Where there was a state highway, there’s now a bed of mud and debris as much as 80 feet deep in some spots. There are few signs that a community existed here, replaced now by a field of debris of hundreds of acres.

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SOURCE: CBS/AP

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