Members of the Snohomish County Volunteer Search and Rescue team met with the media today to talk about the first days on scene of the March 22 mudslide.
The helicopter rescue team was about to take off that morning for a training mission when the slide hit, allowing those rescuers to reach the scene only a half hour later — the same time the swift-water rescue team was leaving for the site with two hovercraft.
With so much debris under the surface of the water, making it impossible to walk across the mudslide and search for survivors, the hovercraft spent days shuttling rescue workers and K-9 units to stable areas.
Even though members of the team have trained for similar disasters and are able to compartmentalize their emotions and images from the days on the slide, some things just stick, said volunteer Carl Johnson, 67
Something many of the swift-water rescuers remember clearly about those first couple days: a red couch.
Sitting on top of a pile of debris, a torn up red couch sat alone beyond where most man-made debris landed — red in the middle of grays and browns.
“It was just out in the middle of nowhere and there was no way anyone could walk out to it,” Johnson said. “It just makes you wonder…. how did it get there?”
The red couch is just one more indicator of the power behind the mudslide, Johnson said.
“You just can’t even imagine the force it must have taken to cause the damage that was done,” volunteer John Simbeck said. “Image taking a coke can and compressing it. That is what we were seeing.”
“The only way you could tell a car was a car was because you could maybe see a tire,” volunteer Greg Palmberg added.