Volunteers join desperate search for landslide survivors

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by JANET KIM / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @JanetKimK5

KING5.com

Posted on March 24, 2014 at 5:22 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 26 at 9:46 AM

DARRINGTON, Wash. -- The Darrington Fire Department has worked as incident command in the Snohomish County landslide. Several search and rescue crews have dispatched from the location there, but they aren't the only ones helping.

From the air and on the ground, crews are searching through debris and rubble, looking for whatever they can find: mementos, pets, survivors.

“When you look at it you are just kind of in shock and you go numb,” said Rhonda Cook, volunteer. “We just heard this morning that a dog got rescued, so if we're finding dogs alive, then why can't we be finding people alive?”

But the people you see here aren't official search and rescue.

“The majority of who you see here are all friends who have come to lend a hand and help out in any way they had,” said Cook.

They're locals like Cory Kuntz, who lost his aunt in the slide and his home, but his uncle is alive thanks to same community of neighbors he's with today.

“They were here before responders were here and they heard him pounding on that roof,” said Kuntz. “He had a little air pocket and a stick and he was poking up on it, banging on it and my neighbors and my friends came and started digging him out. And just couldn't get to my aunt in time. They got him out, so I owe them a lot.”

At one point in the day, official search and rescue teams and civilians were told to pull back from certain areas due to fear of more slides.

Warnings didn't stop Tammy Bailey's family from continuing their search for their missing cousin, Summer Raffo.

“I think I'm scared for them and I don't think our family could possibly handle another tragedy,” said Bailey. “So I want them to come out, but at the same time, I want them to find my cousin.”

They also didn't stop Cory and his friends - all determined to serve their community the best way they know how.
 

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