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Originally published March 28, 2014 at 8:56 PM | Page modified March 28, 2014 at 10:17 PM

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Three generations of a family, lost in minutes

Members of the extended Ruthven family are all missing in the Oso-area landslide.


Seattle Times staff reporter

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Shane and Katie Ruthven were living their American dream: They had just landed some new contracts and their small business, Mountain Lion Glass, was expanding.

They recently bought property in Ocean Shores, with the idea of having a place to share vacations with their large, extended family, said Katie’s father, retired Snohomish County sheriff’s Sgt. Thomas Pszonka, of Marysville.

Shane wanted his mother and stepfather, JuDee and Lou Vandenburg, to be close to their grandkids, and moved them from Spokane to a lot next door.

Shane Ruthven and Lou Vandenburg have been confirmed dead in the Oso-area mudslide, according to family.

Katie Ruthven, young sons Hunter, 6, and Wyatt, 4, and JuDee Vandenburg remain missing, Pszonka said Friday.

Shane Ruthven, 43, originally from Spokane, moved to Western Washington several years ago, falling in love and marrying Katie Pszonka, 34, one of four children, her father said.

She studied at the University of Washington and first aspired to be a doctor before switching to pre-law. She worked as a paralegal for a time before starting up the glass business with Shane, Thomas Pszonka said.

“They found their dream home, a little A-frame they rebuilt from scratch” on Steelhead Drive, where the family had planned to celebrate Pszonka’s birthday last Sunday, the day after the slide, he said. “They had 150 feet of water frontage. It was a beautiful spot where no one bothered you. It was a dream come true for all of us.”

Lou Vandenburg, 71, served in the Marines and worked for the state Department of Corrections in Spokane before retiring, Pszonka said. JuDee Vandenburg, 64, operated a bar in Spokane for years, he said.

Pszonka said his daughter and son-in-law created a haven where their children could ride four-wheelers and motorcycles. He knew about the 2006 slide along the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, but had been told the area was OK.

“For this to happen out of nowhere, we’re all in a state of shock,” said Pszonka. As a retired cop, he’s seen plenty of tragedy, “but this is about the top of the hill,” he said.

Staff reporter Nancy Bartley contributed.

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or sgreen@seattletimes.com



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