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National Guard Searcher Describes 'Sifting' Through Crushed House

Washington National Guard
Washington National Guard searchers are assisting in the effort to locate victims of the Oso landslide in Snohomish County.

The Washington National Guard has now deployed two Black Hawk helicopters to the Oso landslide. On the ground, specially-trained search teams looked for victims in the mud and debris.

Master Sgt. Chris Martin described searching a single house caught in the path of the landslide.

“It’s pretty much flattened and then encased in mud and has trees inter-strewn amongst it.”

Martin says some 50 National Guard, fire department and volunteer searchers swarmed this one house often on their hands and knees using hand tools.

“It’s very muddy and soupy," he says. "If you can kind of imagine concrete before it sets is what it’s like.”

Martin says his team did not find a victim on this initial search. But they’ll be back out there again.

Martin, previously deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan with the National Guard, says this is not a mission impossible. He says it feels good to help fellow Washingtonians for a change.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."