Oso Washington Landslide: Rescue of a 4-year Old Boy

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120424 slide aerial 01 lgAaron Hall, who is from Oso, WA has sent Eco Friendly Shelters a message describing his brother's brave attempt to rescue a 4-year old boy who was trapped in the landslide:

My brother Isaac was heading east towards home and was one of the very first to arrive on the disaster scene moments after it happened Saturday late morning. He and his co-worker heard a young boy screaming from the mudslide and spotted him about 1000 feet out on the mud and debris. They immediately began a dangerous trek out to rescue the child.

Eventually the first rescue helicopter that was sent out upon the initial 911 call spotted Isaac and his buddy (described as the "two men" in the reporters story below), and were able to carry all 3 to safety. Isaac and another experienced "outdoorsman" co-worker returned Sunday morning to offer more help in searching for survivors, but were constrained by authorities to stay off the mudflow. They did search the perimeter of the mud and spotted one dead body. By God's grace, they returned home safely Sunday evening.

Please consider helping by donating funds to Oso Mudslide Relief Fund

Seattle Times stated: On Wednesday, rescue-helicopter crewmen who responded to 911 calls immediately after the Saturday morning mudslide described the desperate effort to pluck survivors from the muck and collapsed homes.

After the initial 10:45 a.m. call that two people were trapped on a rooftop, crewmen steeled themselves for what they thought would be one of the small-scale landslides that are common in this area.

"It took us about 15 minutes to get over to the scene," said Randy Fay, one of the rescue technicians aboard the first helicopter to fly over the mudslide. What they found was the crushed, nearly invisible remains of a former community buried under a titanic pile of sand and silt, with clots of insulation foam floating aimlessly.

"When we flew over, we were thinking (just) a single house. But it was like a moon landscape of pickup sticks. There were trees and debris," Fay said.

They searched frantically for visible survivors as well as sources of heat, said Bill Quistorf, chief helicopter pilot for the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office. Within the first hour of their arrival, they airlifted two women, one with an injured foot, and a man who had lost his arm.

They also rescued two firefighters who became stranded in the quicksandlike mud. But the most harrowing moment was when rescuers spotted 4-year-old Jacob Spillers trapped in the mud.

When the rescue chopper came upon the youngster, he was dressed only in a lightweight, sleeveless shirt and pants that had fallen around his ankles, said Fay, growing emotional as he spoke.

Two men who lived in the area had seen the boy and were trying to make their way through the mud by throwing piles of debris that they could walk on, but the debris was sinking.

"We have no clue how he ended up there by himself," Fay said of Jacob. He was "out in the middle of nowhere. No homes, no nothing."

One of the men on the ground managed to reach the boy but both got stuck in the mud. The rescuers had to pull them out to get them into the helicopter.

The boy "was obviously very, very traumatized. He was hypothermic — he was shivering badly," Fay said.

Jacob has since been reunited with his mother, Fay said. But four members of his family are among the missing. Helicopters were equipped with sensors that could pinpoint heat sources on the ground, like that from a human being. Unfortunately, few so-called "heat signatures" were picked up after the initial wave of rescues, even after low-level searches, Quistorf said.

Learn more at Seattle Times

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