DARRINGTON, Wash. (AP) - Firefighter Jeff McClelland uncovered a body on the moon-like surface that blankets what used to be the community of Oso. Suddenly, he realized the dead man’s son and brother were among the volunteers scouring the debris field.
The relatives sat beside the body as it was zipped into a bag. McClelland found himself overcome with tears.
The discovery served as a touching reminder of the deeply emotional work that is playing out in this tight-knit town as rescuers like McClelland search for bodies in the muck and devastation left behind by a massive mudslide, hoping to at least bring some closure to the relatives and friends of those who have not been found.
“I can go home and ... eat some food, hug my wife, come in and hug my friends the next morning and say, `Let’s go again. We’ve got something to do. We’ve got a job to do, so let’s go do it,’” McClelland said, recalling his thoughts on Wednesday.
Scores of people once thought missing in the mudslide have turned up safe, but that provided little relief to rescuers like McClelland who are tasked with bringing closure to the relatives and friends of those who have not been found.
Hope of a miracle discovery of a survivor has faded as the search entered its sixth day Thursday, replaced by acknowledgement that some families may not be able to bury a body.
Authorities cross-referencing the reports they received of missing people with those who had checked were able to eliminate 140 people from the list of the missing Wednesday, said Snohomish County Emergency Management Director John Pennington.
That left 90 confirmed missing, with another 35 who authorities are unsure were in the area when a hillside collapsed Saturday morning 55 miles northeast of Seattle.