More remains found at site of B.C. landslide
Published Monday, July 16, 2012 8:52AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, July 16, 2012 8:49PM EDT
The remains of a second person were found Monday under a field of debris at the site of a landslide that washed away three homes in southeastern British Columbia late last week.
RCMP could not confirm the identity of the remains, but three people were still missing and presumed dead: 22-year-old Diana Webber, her 17-year-old sister Rachel, and German vacationer Petra Frehse, 64.
On Sunday, search crews found the remains of 60-year-old Valentine Webber, the father of Diana and Rachel, in the debris at Johnsons Landing, near Nelson.
The grim discovery prompted RCMP to hand part of the investigation over to the province’s Coroners Service, and officials announced that the rescue mission had turned into a recovery operation.
On Monday, the Webber sisters were remembered as vivacious, creative young women. Their cousin, Karen Jenkins, told The Canadian Press that Diana and Rachel divided their time between their mother’s home in Florida and their father’s house in Johnsons Landing. Diana also spent time in Los Angeles writing screenplays, while Rachel just graduated high school, Jenkins said.
Their father had built the house with his own hands and was an experienced sailor, Jenkins said.
At least three homes were destroyed when the massive landslide came thundering down onto Johnsons Landing last Thursday. The slide left behind a massive, muddy table of debris which Molgat estimates is about two kilometres long, 150 metres wide and five metres deep in places.
Excavation efforts focused on the Webber home, which was swept away in the slide. A search team, which was about 70 people strong, used heavy equipment to sift through debris. Crews also conducted a grid search of the site and have used dog teams for assistance.
The stability of the search site has been a persistent concern for searchers. Rainy weather hampered rescue efforts on Friday and early Saturday as geotechnicians were called in to determine whether it was safe for crews to enter the site.
An email obtained by CTV British Columbia on Saturday suggested local residents were concerned about erratic water levels on nearby Gar Creek, hours before the slide.
The message was written by an area resident and circulated among community members.
“The entire level of the creek bed has now been raised at least six feet in that area,” the email said, warning that the banks were “constantly being scoured and re-shaped.”
The email was sent Thursday at 4:56 a.m. local time to a number of local residents and was forwarded to a research hydrologist who passed it on to emergency responders. The message, however, reached the responders at 11:30 a.m., a half hour after the slide.
With files from The Canadian Press