Time must stand still when you receive a call like the one Lynn Migdal got Thursday. To have her two daughters trapped under eight to 10 metres of thick mud, trees, rocks and debris is unimaginable.
Since a massive landslide tore through Johnsons Landing, seven volunteer search and rescue crews from around BC, RCMP, and regional district staff along with a specialized squad from Vancouver have been working in conditions where combing through debris is like digging in concrete, and at times more like walking through quicksand.
Despite the tragedy, Migdal, Johnsons Landing residents, family and friends were hopeful Valentine, Diana, and Rachel Webber, and Petra Frehse would be found alive.
The roof of the Webber home could be seen in aerial photos, and people asked why search and rescue crews weren’t moving faster.
We quickly learned why when Friday morning another slide came down. Mandy Bath (who lost her home in the slide) and reporter Francis Silvaggio barely escaped.
The debris field was constantly shifting and moving. The already swollen Gar Creek was still flowing beneath the slide. Search and rescue workers moved on site with spotters watching for any changes that might indicate it was coming down again.
With poor weather, geo-technicians flew over the slide every morning to assess conditions and determine whether it was safe enough for crews to return.
These volunteers and specialized crews put themselves in danger to save lives. While this is a priority, their safety was also vital.
The memory of the loss of Nelson Search and Rescue volunteer Sheilah Sweatman last year was in many minds as crews worked the constantly shifting slide.
Criticism will now come up. Who is to blame? Did search and rescue respond fast enough? If they had, would the Webbers and Frehse still be alive? There are no answers to these questions.
But we can say the search and rescue crews on site are heroes in the truest sense and deserve the community’s thanks and gratitude.