The brother-in-law of an Oso mudslide victim who has been listed as missing, Mark Gustafson, 55, said he was about 30 yards away on the debris field Wednesday morning when Gustafson’s remains were found.
“It’s not official yet, but we knew it was him because of the tattoo on his shoulder,” said Doug Smith, a brother-in-law from Galena, Alaska, who said nearly a dozen relatives had been helping in the search for two weeks.
Other families, as well, are still looking for their own missing loved ones, a grim and grueling task, Smith said.
“It’s hard and it can be dangerous,” Smith said. “There’s mud, there’s what looks like 30 or 40 truckloads of logs. There’s debris, there’s household goods, there’s garbage, propane tanks — everything.”
He said one of Gustafson’s sons had to withdraw from the search after stepping on a nail and getting an infection. Another son, who has been stationed in Italy in the military, was able to get a Red Cross flight to the states and was on the scene even before the Smiths could get down from Alaska.
Smith said Gustafson’s body was found about 10 a.m. near a lone spruce tree that didn’t get knocked down by the slide. Some of Gustafson’s belongings had been found near that spot earlier, so search crews and family members believed they were getting close.
“When they found him, they called us over, and we saw the tattoo,” Smith said.
Smith, husband of Gustafson’s sister, Patty Gustafson, said the missing man’s three sons, a son-in-law and other relatives had assisted in the search from the first day relatives were allowed to help out, several days after the slide.
“Other families are up here, too. I met some, but I’ve met so many people, emergency workers, medical examiners and others I can’t keep everything straight,” Smith said. He said family members are focused on the task at hand.
As of Wednesday morning, Gustafson was among 10 people still reported missing by Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.
Patty Gustafson said her brother was a construction worker who lived alone. She said family members have been staying with her brothers’ friends in Arlington. “They’ve been a godsend,” she said.
“There are other families going through the same thing,” she said. “We try to keep each other’s spirits up. It’s just so sad.”