Logger: Let local volunteers keep searching for mudslide victims
DARRINGTON, Wash. - A contractor will soon begin the massive task of removing mud and debris from Highway 530, a critical step toward repairing and re-opening the highway.
Darrington resident Brian Roggenbuck says that's fine, but let locals continue searching for two victims who have not yet been recovered.
"My heart still aches for the victims and for the families that were affected by this tragedy," Roggenbuck said. "since we still have two people missing, to me it should be the priority is to search that material."
Of the 43 slide victims, Steven Hadaway and Kris Regelbrugge are still missing.
Roggenbuck has launched an online petition urging the state to allow local loggers and heavy equipment operators to search the debris before it's removed. He says nearly 900 people have signed the petition.
Roggenbuck has operated his own logging company for nearly 35 years. He spent 28 days volunteering his time searching for victims after the slide.
He says it makes sense for locals to continue searching for the remaining two victims.
"They've been out there in the middle of it and they've figured out ways to search this material and do it efficiently and very delicately," he notes.
Roggenbuck believes there could be an efficient system that would allow volunteers to perform their search without delaying the removal project.
The Darrington resident also believes the contractor should hire locals for the paying jobs the project will generate.
Because the federal government is paying for the contract, rules prevent the state from requiring the contractor to hire locally. Roggenbuck hopes his petition will put pressure on state officials to allow volunteers to keep searching, and to convince the contractor to hire from the community.
"We started the job out there and we'd like to finish it by finding the last two people," he said.