Body of 4-month-old baby found in landslide

Body of 4-month-old baby found in landslide

Credit: Family photo

Sanoah Violet Huestis

Print
Email
|

by HEATHER GRAF / KING 5 News and ELIZABETH WEISE / USA TODAY

kgw.com

Posted on March 27, 2014 at 4:14 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 27 at 4:16 PM

ARLINGTON, Wash. -- The body of a 4-month-old girl was found Thursday during the search for survivors of the Oso landslide.

Sanoah Violet Huestis and her grandmother, Christina Jefferds, were victims of Saturday’s slide. Jefferds, 45, was babysitting when it happened.

Sanoah was found around 10 a.m. Thursday in the debris, not far from where Jefferds was found.

Dale Petersen, Sanoah's great uncle, said he and other family members "were told that it was her."

Petersen said he wasn't at the site at the time her body was discovered. But when he arrived on scene to help look for survivors, work had stopped in his area and a firefighter informed him and others that they had found her.

Jefferds’ husband, Seth, and his step-daughter, Natasha Huestis, were in Arlington when the slide happened. Huestis is Sanoah’s mother.

"Sanoah's name is Hawaiian.  My mom, she came up with Sanoah's middle name, Violet," said Natasha earlier this week  "Sanoah Violet.  Her name means mist in the mountains.  And you know, she's in the mountains right now."

Seth is a firefighter in Oso.

Funeral arrangements  have not been set. The family wanted to wait until they found Sanoah, so grandmother and granddaughter can be buried together.

A fund has been set up to help the family.  Donations can be made at any Key Bank for the Jefferds/Huestis fund.

Related: Personal stories of people impacted Oso slide

Help buy gas cards for Darrington residents

The official death toll from Snohomish County was at 16 Thursday morning, although observations and reports brought the number to at least 25. There are 90 reports of people missing or unaccounted for.

Painstaking search

At the site of the slide, the 600-foot hill that once towered across the river from the street has turned what was once a country lane of homes, cabins and barns into a disaster zone of grey and brown mud. Homes are visible as tangles of Sheetrock, wood and wiring.

"You've got clay balls the size of ambulances that have rolled off that hill and smashed into everything as they've come down," said Chief Travis Hots with the Snohomish County Fire District 21.

"There are forensic digging teams out there now digging through homes," said Steve Mason,  battalion chief for Snohomish County Fire District 1. Over 200 search and rescue personnel are on scene.

Each house is inspected by a team that delicately cuts into it, so searching can begin. If no one is found in that outer part of the house, "the machine goes in and takes a small bite and you look through that very carefully," he said.

The difficulty is in staying focused and careful. "There's millions of cubic feet of stuff out there. It's a slow process," he said.

The searchers are working in waist-deep mud at some points, Mason said. "It's very hard to be methodical in this situation."

For that reason, fresh searchers are being rotated in, said Hots."The folks who are out there can't keep doing this forever. They're getting tired and need a break," he said.

In one area, a victim had been found in a car that had been pushed 200 feet off Highway 530 by the power of the slide.

It took workers an hour to remove the roof of the car because their equipment kept jamming because of the mud.

When a body is removed, the site suddenly becomes so quiet, "you can almost hear a pin drop out there. You see seasoned veterans, their eyes get glossy. It's their way of showing respect for people's loved ones," Hots said.

Despite the wreckage and destruction, the air that blows across the site is fresh and cold, with the smell of the Stillaguamish River and rain in it. Rain worries the workers.

The terrain is extremely rugged and the possibility of further slides is never far from anyone's mind. Geologists have placed delicate instruments at the top of the slide to monitor for movement.

But the responders have crafted their own, cruder, measuring devices. They've put about 6 feet of aluminum foil on some of the trees near the top of the slide, so they will immediately be able to tell that they haven't fallen. That could indicate more earth movement, Mason said.

The entire county is pitching in to help the rescue effort. So much so that officials have taken to begging people not to bring more food to the fire stations. They're full to bursting.

At the Food Pavilion supermarket in Arlington on Thursday, volunteers who spontaneously organized through Facebook were loading personal trailers with food to drive the two-hour detour route to their sister town of Darrington, which remains cut off by the slide.

"We were all on Facebook and we wanted to do something to help, so we just started collecting food and money," said Kara Brown, 29. A native of Arlington, she now lives in Marysville.

"We've filled up three trailers and we've collected $4,100 and $1,000 in gasoline cards," she said.

The group made up sweatshirts that read "Oso strong" on the front and "Oso much hope" on the back.

Store manager Loly Ramirez  was getting ready to cook up 200 pounds of chicken along with mashed potatoes and rolls to take to the workers for dinner. "We're doing what we can. [Oso people] shopped here, they're our customers. They're our friends."

Pool reporting by Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times

KING 5'S Travis Pittman and The Associated Press contributed to this report

 

Print
Email
|