Search resumes for 4 missing in Johnsons Landing landslide
Residents warned of muddy water, log jam before landslide
The search continues today for four people believed to be buried by a huge landslide in Johnsons Landing in southeastern B.C.
Valentine Webber, 60; his two daughters Diana Webber, 22, and Rachel Webber, 17; and Petra Frehse, 64, have been missing since the landslide hit on Thursday — but emergency officials are still calling it a rescue, rather than a recovery mission.
Crews have pinpointed part of the smashed house where they suspect the missing four may be, and say it's possible they could be holed up in a basement cellar underneath a huge pile of rubble.
The dangerous search was delayed Friday until engineers were sure the pile of rubble could support crews going back in.
About 40 workers with heavy equipment tried to sift through trees, mud and rock until dusk Saturday night.
Family and friends are hoping the four missing people will be found alive, 72 hours after the landslide hit.
Lila Taylor has known Diana Webber since the family moved to Johnsons Landing.
"We were both seven, and we became pretty much like inseparable friends since then."
Taylor says the older Webber sister had been living part-time in Los Angeles.
"She was trying to make it as a writer and ... she had a movie she wrote picked up by an Australian producer. So she was trying to make a go of it, which was really good."
'Living in a nightmare'
Taylor spoke to Diana Webber minutes before the landslide, making plans to get together later that day. Now, she's just hoping her friends survive.
"This is pretty much the worst thing that could happen. I'm living a nightmare right now," she said. "They're the most amazing people you could find on this planet. You couldn't have better friends."
Seventeen-year-old Rachel Webber was set to enter grade 12 at JV Humphries Secondary School in Kaslo this fall.
Frehse, who lived next door from the Webber's, is from Germany and spent about six months of the year in Johnsons Landing.
Some Johnsons Landing residents say they were concerned about muddy water and a log jam in the local creek before the landslide.
Mandy Bath, whose home was swept into Kootenay Lake, emailed a neighbour hours before disaster struck to warn that something had to be done about the potentially dangerous situation at Gar Creek.
"I noticed this slick on the lakeshore. Then the next day it changed colour again — it became thick, like a chocolate mousse," she said. "I was up in the night with my flashlight looking at the creek, thinking the bank could give."
Ministry notified of risk
A man who received Bath's email forwarded it to a friend in the Forests Ministry, but he couldn't access it until after the slide hit.
"Within moments, he forwarded it off to our professional engineer with the water stewardship team as well as our dam safety office. Around that time, initial reports about the landslide were coming out," said Forests Ministry geotechnician Jeremy Zandbergen.
Gail Spitler, who has lived in Johnsons Landing for more than 20 years, says something has to change.
"What should have happened, in my personal opinion, is that we should have been able to say to somebody, 'This is behaving wrong,'" she said.
"And some knowledgable people, probably in a helicopter, would have been dispatched and done some analysis of what's building here and then you tell people to get out, it's too dangerous."
Zandbergen says anyone who spots a potential hazard like the Johnsons Landing slide should immediately call 911 or emergency officials in their district.
RCMP Cpl. Dan Moskaluk says eight people in the community of 35 residents have refused to leave despite the danger.
According to the Regional District of Central Kootenay, seven people in five homes on the south side of the slope are cut off, with no power or water.
BC Hydro is working to restore power so the food they have doesn't spoil, and officials are working to get them additional provisions.
At least three homes were engulfed in Thursday's slide.
With files from The Canadian Press