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3 more Washington mudslide victims identified

  • Article by: GENE JOHNSON
  • Associated Press
  • April 17, 2014 - 2:30 PM

OSO, Wash. — Authorities have identified three more bodies pulled from the debris of the mudslide that swept through the Washington town of Oso last month.

All 39 victims recovered have been identified, the Snohomish County medical examiner's office said Thursday, and four names remain on the list of the missing. Crews continue to dig through the devastation with a swarm of excavators.

The latest victims identified are Wyatt M. Ruthven, 4, of Arlington; Sandra K. Miller, 64, of Everett; and Ronald P. Dequilettes, 52, of Arlington. All died of multiple blunt force injuries.

The March 22 slide buried dozens of homes in the community 55 miles northeast of Seattle. Steady rain Thursday complicated the search and recovery effort, and officials worried about rising water from the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River.

A steady run of dump trucks Wednesday piled tons of crushed rock to raise the height of a 2,000-foot-long berm constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has allowed workers to pump water out of a main search area and separate it from the river.

Nearly an inch of rain was expected on top of about 2 inches that had fallen since Tuesday night, said Gary Schneider, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Seattle.

The pool behind the mudslide has risen about a foot and was expected to rise 2 more feet before cresting Thursday night, he said. That could come close to spilling over the berm.

The rain adds to the agonizing mess for hundreds of workers searching the debris for bodies and starting to clear a mile-long stretch of Highway 530 covered up to 25 feet deep. Crews have been able to clear only about 100 feet of the highway each day, said Koreena Haynes, a spokeswoman for the incident command.

The state Transportation Department has been telling residents in meetings this week it could be fall before the highway is cleared, repaired and reopened. In the meantime, officials may allow residents with "passports" to use a service road that has been restricted to emergency crews.

Officials also are preparing for President Barack Obama's visit to the site on Tuesday. He plans to survey the damage and meet with victims and emergency responders.

© 2014 Star Tribune