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A sign on a grocery store asks people to pray for victims of a nearby, deadly mudslide, Tuesday, March 25, 2014, in Darrington, Wash. At least 14 people were killed in the 1-square-mile slide that hit in a rural area about 55 miles northeast of Seattle on Saturday. Several people also were critically injured, and homes were destroyed. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Some anger, frustration with initial search response in Oso mudslide

There's growing frustration from some criticizing rescue efforts following the massive Oso mudslide.

KIRO Radio listener Dan called Dori Monson to report family members found the body of his son-in-law John Regelbrugge III, 49, Tuesday morning after an exhaustive search. His daughter Kris remains missing.

Dan says he's angry and heartbroken after 20 family members and friends searched the area on Steelhead Drive without any sign of official rescuers assisting in the effort.

"They have not seen one rescuer up there. Yesterday (Monday) four bodies were found and they were all found by family members," Dan says.

Dan is among many complaining about officials limiting early search efforts because of dangerous conditions and telling civilians to stay out of the search area. But officials have said repeatedly conditions remain treacherous and they have to err on the side of caution to prevent any further injuries or loss of life.

"The last thing we want to have happen is people showing up in their cars and sneaking up on the pile and they're up there working independently on their own," said Snohomish Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots at a briefing Tuesday.

Kane Conner's home was destroyed in the mudslide. His mother-in-law and friend were inside the house as it was crushed by the earthen wall. They survived and were airlifted out. But Conner, who wasn't home at the time, says he needs to get into the disaster zone and is willing to risk his own safety.

"I need to be a part of this, and I'm not allowed to be a part of this," Conner says. "I can't move forward in my life - to find a place to live, to get my son back in school, to go back to work to do the things we need to do - until this community is able to start its healing process I can't start my healing process."

Dan is so frustrated, he says he posted a complaint on Governor Jay Inslee's Facebook page demanding answers about the lack of additional resources, and says it was deleted soon after.

"All we're doing is getting lied to by the guys on TV," he says.

Governor Jay Inslee responded to the complaints in an interview Wednesday with KIRO Radio's Dori Monson, saying he understands their frustration.

"It is extremely understandable that people are going to be frustrated by this given the enormity of this. This is one square mile of perimeter that involves slurry. And I can understand if searchers were around one corner and weren't in front of my house I would be frustrated too."

Inslee says the state has done all it can to provide whatever resources are necessary, but it is ultimately up to local officials coordinating the rescue effort.

"We're going to do everything humanly possible for these families," Inslee says. "We've got to understand families are justifiably frustrated by this whole disaster and it is not surprising that people would have extreme anxiety about this and we should understand that."

"Let's not try to get angry with the first responders," counters KIRO Radio's Don O'Neill. He says it's understandable people are so frustrated, especially as they deal with such profound grief. But he says it's important to remember there's a real possibility of another slide, putting heroic first responders in danger. "These men and women are doing everything they can do."

"Absolutely," agrees KIRO Radio's Ron Upshaw, who points out the training and expertise for such a complex rescue is critical to the effort. "You would know where your house used to be, and you would think that you know where to look, but that's not where your house is now."

"I understand the anger, I understand the reckless abandon to go in and do whatever it takes to try and get this done. That drive is huge and I don't fault anybody," Ron says.

Inslee agrees.

"We've got to do the best we can do, and that is to let people know they're not alone. When I hug these folks I let them know there's six million arms around them."

Josh Kerns, MyNorthwest.com
Josh Kerns is an award winning reporter/anchor and host of KIRO Radio's Seattle Sounds (Sunday afternoons 5-6p) and a digital content producer for MyNorthwest.com.
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