The volunteers with the Snohomish County Search and Rescue teams recall a day when everything clicked.

All the training, all the coordination with other agencies worked as planned in the worst emergency any of these men and women have ever confronted.

The team on SnoHAWK 10 were the first to arrive from the air, immediately began searching for survivors to pluck to safety but they had a hard time seeing them.

Because the survivors were covered in mud, and the only thing that really stood out is because they were grasping with their palms onto debris, and so the bare palms was the only thing that we could see that was waving, said Pilot Ed Hrivnak. The rest of their body was often camouflaged because they were covered in mud.

They brought in their search helicopter, with a Flir Thermal Imaging camera, to find people from their body heat.

Deputy Bill Quistorf says he spotted one man on top of an overturned car, who waved him off...

He made a signal like this, like his loved one was down there, and we understood that. That was tough, said Quistorf

The man didn't want to leave his loved one.

They dropped down and pulled eight people out of the mud and debris and into the safety of the helicopter. Hovercraft searched the waters, K-9 teams worked around the clock.

I've never experienced anything like this, said Hrivnak. I was at the Oklahoma City bombing, did two tours of duty in the Middle East, and none of that compares.

It's very sorrowful, the lives that were lost, but our crew is grateful that we were able to rescue eight.

Read or Share this story: