ARLINGTON, Wash. -- One of the most gripping parts of a news conference Wednesday afternoon described the rescue of a young boy by a Snohomish County helicopter crew. They just happened to be training that Saturday morning, so they were the first air responders at the scene, within 45 minutes of the slide.
Rescue technician and crew chief Randy Fay described what he called “the low hanging fruit—the people who were waving, the ones we could see.”
“It was like this moon landscape with pickup sticks everywhere, trees, debris,” he said.
Fay says they first hovered over two women caked in mud standing on a house, floating in the wash.
“You already got hypothermic people and now you bring this giant fan over them and you’re blasting them with 60 mile an hour winds,” said Fay. “There’s very little communication going on. We try to be professionally assertive and get them in this gear. You can imagine if you’ve been through something like this.”
Then they saw the boy.
“There were two men who lived here who had seen him as well and were trying to make their way to him on the ground by throwing debris in the water and walking on it, but that was sinking. He even started sinking in this place where they were,” said Fay.
“He was obviously very, very traumatized. He was hypothermic, he was shivering badly, he was dressed in a t-shirt …and his underpants. When we first tried to get him out, he had pants on around his ankles, so when we pulled him out of the mud, those pants came off. So we were running in the cabin of the aircraft, we had the pilots running the heat full blast because all of these people were hypothermic, so warming them was the priority we had the few minutes we were with them.”
For a moment during the news conference, the grandfather Randy Fay gets the better of rescuer Randy Fay as he broke down in tears.
“Crap. Sorry. Obviously I’m not a professional interview here,” he said. “I’m probably emoting a little more than I would about it. but as his story comes out, there’s still folks in his family missing and you hurt for that kid, and the mom. But the good news, the silver lining is mom and kid are back together, so that’s what you hang on to.”
Fay says his crew was soon joined by a Navy rescue helicopter. He’s not sure how long they were in the air rescuing people.
Later that afternoon, a state patrol chopper searched the area with a heat-detecting device, but found no signs of body heat.