Event Date:
Friday, September 12, 2014 - 7:00am

Heather Graf, KING 5 News

KING 5 Video: Oso Slide Debris Removal Ends, Victims Reunited with Mementos

OSO, Wash. -- Friday marks a major milestone at the site of the Oso landslide. Crews charged with removing debris from that hallowed ground will finish the job, ten days earlier than expected.

In total, workers removed 200,000 cubic yards of material from the slide zone off of State Route 530. About 85 percent of that was earthen material, but buried in the mud, crews also found nearly 1,000 personal items that belong to landslide victims.

"You know, pictures and things that are very sentimental to people, that were part of their lives prior to this event," said Matt Zybas, Snohomish County Solid Waste Director.

He was in charge of the debris removal project and said it was a task crews took seriously.


(Photo: KING)

They developed a process in which every bit of soil, sand, and debris was screened for items that might belong to one of the families who lost their homes in the landslide.

Many of the items were eventually reunited with landslide survivors or given to a victim's surviving family members.

Survivor Robin Youngblood, who was rescued from the mud by a helicopter crew, had asked construction crews to keep an eye out for several specific items that were important to her family.

"Certain ceremonial items I had and so forth," she said." "And I had asked them to please be respectful and not pass them through too many hands."

She says crews did just that in late August, when they called to tell her a few items had been found. One was a beaded native american bag that held several family heirlooms inside.

Robin says the items were damaged, after months buried in the mud, but she's still grateful to have them back.

"They are very precious to me," she said. "It's been very important."

Zybas says it was an honor to work on the project.

"I think I can say that on behalf of the contractors," he said. "To know this was something that was important to the community and to work really hard to respect and honor the people who were there."

Snohomish County credited dry summer weather and a collaborative effort from community members and county officials for the project's early completion. The final phase of the project was hydroseeding to further stabilize the soil and prevent erosion.