Fatigue setting in for rescue crews in Oso landslide

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by KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on March 28, 2014 at 5:42 PM

OSO, Wash. -- The adrenaline of the initial rescue is wearing off, and as people grasp the enormity of what lies ahead, fatigue is setting in. It’s adding another layer of concern to this already overwhelming tragedy.

With his boots taped to his hip waders to keep out mud, Bob Michajla of Edmonds went into the landslide prepared physically and emotionally.

“You don't want to come across a person who's deceased but that's why we're out there,” he said.

It's a job that must be done, but every person who goes into the mile wide swath of muck, twisted debris, ruined homes and toppled trees is taking a risk. It’s a risk that increases with exhaustion.

"A lot of guys and women have been out here every day and when you're fatigued you make mistakes and injure yourself,” he said.

Dr. Ron Brown's job is preventing the rescuers from becoming the rescued.

"Some of those areas that they're actively working, it's like logs over a lake, logs over quick sand, the logs are slippery,” he said. “You could be 50 feet away from them and it could take 5 to 10 minutes to get to them, much less get them out.”

Dr. Brown is medical director for Snohomish County's search-and-rescue operations but he considers every person in that slide zone his responsibility.

"We try to preposition paramedics out there to keep an eye on rescuers. So rescuers can do the job they're out here to do which is recovery," he said.

And a protocol has emerged for that too.

“Quite frankly, that's going to be hallowed ground out there," he said.

Searchers are often working side-by-side with the sisters and brothers, sons and daughters of the missing.

"A lot of time, while they're digging, they're listening to their stories. When we find something, it's a moment of silence. We stand back, activity ceases, hats off, everybody silent,” he said.

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