JOHNSONS LANDING, B.C. — The labour-intensive and emotional task of digging for the remaining two people buried under a massive landslide in British Columbia continued Tuesday, with crews hoping the earlier discoveries of a young girl and her father will help them find the others.
Crews were using excavators and other heavy equipment to delve into two areas of Johnsons Landing, where the bodies of a German vacationer and a young woman were believed to be located.
“Because we did find two victims in the last couple of days, it did encourage us,” said Barb McLintock for the BC Coroner’s Service, which is co-ordinating the recovery efforts in the hamlet northeast of Nelson, B.C.
“Relief is the best word. There are no happy endings in this. What we’re trying to do is give the families as much closure as possible.”
Last Thursday’s slide buried four people, including a man, his two daughters and a German traveller.
The body of 60-year-old Valentine Webber was uncovered Sunday, and the remains of one of his daughters were found the following day. Authorities have only said the remains of a young female were found Monday and have not confirmed whether the woman was 17-year-old Rachel Webber or 22-year-old Diana Webber.
One of the Webber girls remains unaccounted for, as does longtime summer resident Petra Frehse, 64.
On Tuesday, there were 24 searchers divided into two teams at the site, located along Kootenay Lake more than 200 kilometres southwest of Calgary. They were focusing their efforts on the area where the other two bodies were found and around the foundation of the cabin where Frehse lived.
McLintock said a technical expert based in the Kootenay region, who has worked on large-scale recovery cases for both the B.C. coroner and the RCMP, has been providing guidance about where to search.
“He’s very good at figuring out, ’OK, if we know they were in the house and this is where the foundation of the house is, and this is the layout that we know from before, where are they likely to be?”’ she said.
“He’s been right on so far and we just hope he continues to be.”
Three homes were destroyed when a creek burst and sent a powerful cascade of mud and trees rushing down onto Johnsons Landing, a remote community of 35 people.
Valentine Webber’s body was discovered on Sunday. The next day, one of his daughters was found about three metres away.