Whidbey Island agencies assist in Oso mudslide response

The Whidbey Island Naval Air Station Search and Rescue team search through mudslide debris in Oso Saturday. - Janis Reid/Whidbey News-Times
The Whidbey Island Naval Air Station Search and Rescue team search through mudslide debris in Oso Saturday.
— image credit: Janis Reid/Whidbey News-Times

Members of the local American Red Cross chapter and the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station Search and Rescue unit assisted with rescue and recovery efforts since a mudslide hit Snohomish County Saturday morning.

“It was a good feeling to help rescue people caught up in the mudslide,” said David Scott, the crew chief aboard the Navy’s Knighthawk helicopter. “It was a bittersweet experience.”

As of Tuesday, the death toll was at least 14, with well over 100 unaccounted for, according to the Everett Herald.

Nine volunteers have been sent from the Islands Chapter of the American Red Cross since Saturday, according to Ron Conlin, Island Chapter supervisor.

The volunteers work as shelter workers in a 12-hour shift rotation. It remains unclear how many people have been displaced, according to Nancy Waddell, co-team leader of the South Whidbey Disaster Action Team.

However, Waddell said was aware that one night over the weekend the Arlington shelter housed 24 people overnight.

Several other shelters have been opened in the area, Waddell said.

A registered nurse from the Islands Chapter is also on site providing health services.

In addition, NAS Whidbey Island’s Search and Rescue unit was contacted by the Regional Operations Center Snowpack Operator for assistance, according to Public Affairs Officer Mike Welding.

“I was awestruck by the destruction and even more so when we found out how many houses were destroyed,” said Lt. Robert Merin, the helicopter copilot.

The unit helped evacuate several individuals after arriving on scene and two crew members provided on-the-ground evacuation efforts.

They returned to base to transport three federal firefighters and their rescue equipment to the scene, and one victim was transported to Skagit Valley Hospital.

The unit returned to NAS Whidbey Island late Saturday but is on alert standby to provide additional assistance if requested, Welding said.


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