Search suspended for missing bodies in B.C. landslide

Officials announce the end of the first phase of the search for victims of the Johnsons Landing landslide in southeastern B.C.

After another day of fruitless recovery efforts, officials in B.C. say they are reassessing their chances of finding two bodies which remain missing a week after a massive mudslide hit the small community of Johnsons Landing.

The B.C. Coroner's Service says the bodies of the two remaining victims may never be found. Two bodies have been removed from the debris so far.

"We won't be continuing the search tomorrow," said Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe from Kaslo, B.C., about 18 kilometres south of the site of the landslide near Kootenay Lake.

Sniffer dogs were sent to help in the rescue and recovery effort. (Bob Keating/CBC)

Lapointe says searchers have managed to excavate the debris field in the vicinity of the victims' properties.

"We concluded excavating around those areas to ground level and in some cases that was going down five metres of debris," said Lapointe.

Lapointe says the debris field is a massive 32 hectares. 

She says searchers must now decide whether it's feasible to continue the search at all, and if it is resumed, where it should be concentrated.

The debris field is still dangerously unstable and there's more bad weather on the way, says Jim Young, team leader of Vancouver Heavy Urban Search and Rescue.

"It is very precarious. We had an incident yesterday where the winds picked up... and trees were falling all around our spotters," said Young.

The road into the area should be reopened soon, but officials are warning residents to stay away as the debris field could shift again.

The landslide barrelled down a mountainside last Thursday and destroyed three homes overlooking Kootenay Lake.

On Monday, the body of a female was discovered about three metres from a home. The woman's identity has not been confirmed, but it's likely the body of Rachel Webber, 17, or Diana Webber, 22.

The remains were found close to the first body recovered, believed to be that of their father, Valentine Webber, 60.

Also missing is Petra Frehse, 64, a German retiree who would spend part of her year living in a home next door to the Webbers.

With files from Mike Clarke and The Canadian Press