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March 28, 2014 at 1:35 PM

3 generations of family among the missing


Missing in slide are, from left, Lou Vandenburg, JuDee Vandenburg, Shane Ruthven, Katie Ruthven, Hunter Ruthven, 6, and Wyatt Ruthven, 4. (Photo courtesy of Thomas Psonzka)

Shane and Katie Ruthven were living “an all-American” love story: They had just landed some new contracts and their small business, Mountain Lion Glass, was expanding.

They recently purchased property in Ocean Shores, with the idea of having a place to share vacations with their large, extended family, said Katie’s father, retired Snohomish County sheriff’s Sgt. Thomas Pszonka, of Marysville.

The couple, their two young sons -– Hunter, 6, and Wyatt, 4 –- and Shane’s parents are all missing in the Oso-area landslide, Pszonka said Friday.

Shane Ruthven, originally from Spokane, moved to Western Washington several years ago, falling in love and marrying Katie Pszonka, 34, one of four children, her father said.

She studied at the University of Washington and first aspired to be a doctor before switching to pre-law. She worked as a paralegal for a time before starting up the glass business with Shane, Thomas Pszonka said.

“They found their dream home, a little A-frame they rebuilt from scratch” on Steelhead Drive, where the family had planned to celebrate Thomas’ birthday last Sunday, the day after the slide, he said. “They had 150 feet of water frontage. It was a beautiful spot where no one bothered you. It was a dream come true for all of us.”

Shane Ruthven, 43, wanted his mother and stepfather, JuDee and Lou Vandenburg, to be close to their grandkids, and moved them from Spokane onto a lot next door.

Lou Vandenburg, 71, served in the Marines and worked for the state Department of Corrections in Spokane before retiring, Pszonka said. JuDee Vandenburg, 64, operated a bar in Spokane for many years, he said.

Pszonka said his daughter and son-in-law were incredibly kind and created a haven where their children could ride four-wheelers and motorcycles. He knew about the 2006 slide along the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, but had been assured the area was safe.

“For this to happen out of nowhere, we’re all in a state of shock,” said Pszonka. As a retired cop, he’s seen plenty of tragedy, “but this is about the top of the hill,” he said.


Why identifying mudslide victims seems to take so long
Painful wait drags on; fire chief says death toll soon will rise
Laser maps reveal slide risk with startling clarity, but few citizens know they exist
With camo rings, young couple planned wedding by the river
Partial list of victims

Comments | More in General news, The Blotter | Topics: Oso mudslide


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