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Originally published March 30, 2014 at 8:44 PM | Page modified March 31, 2014 at 12:10 AM

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Darrington hails its homegrown heroes

Darrington’s first responders are praised for their early and lasting work searching through debris at the massive mudslide east of Oso.


Seattle Times staff reporter

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DARRINGTON — The day the mud came down, Isaac Hall and his buddy Quinn Nations were heading back to Darrington, towing a truck they planned to salvage for parts.

As they reached the slide, their up-valley journey turned into a rescue effort when they spied three survivors — a young boy stuck in the mud, a baby lying on top of the slide debris and a young woman pinned down by brush and debris.

“They were more or less toward the edge of it, and they were on top. Obviously on top,” Hall said Sunday after a church service here.

Hall, Nations and another man who stopped tore pieces off a tin roof and fashioned them into a bridge that enabled them to reach the survivors as a team of Oso first responders arrived.

Hall and Nations pulled the young boy — later identified as 4-year-old Jacob Spillers — from the muck, and a chain saw was used to free the young woman, both of whom were airlifted from the scene. The baby was carried from the slide zone, back over the tin-roof bridge and out of danger, Hall said.

Hall, a 26-year-old mechanic, attended a morning service Sunday at First Baptist Church in Darrington with his wife and three young children, where he was hailed for his rescue efforts.

He was one of the earliest among the dozens of residents who worked the desolate ground in the disaster’s aftermath.

Even as trained search and rescue crews have converged on the scene from many parts, the Darrington teams continue to work the site on the east side day in and day out.

And through a tough week of searches, when no survivors were found, these local search teams have emerged as a big source of community pride.

At a Friday meeting at the community center gymnasium, Darrington Mayor Dan Rankin praised these responders in front of dozens of residents who sat in the bleachers and stamped their feet in boisterous applause.

“We flew under the radar,” Rankin said. “ …We’ve been doing the work. We own it. We did it.”

Most are from the community, and a few from a bit farther afield such as the Skagit Valley to the north.

Many are loggers whose work in the woods gives them an intimate knowledge of the land, and they have fanned out through the slide zones with crews of heavy-equipment operators.

Much of their effort has been focused on helping to open a road for emergency crews, and helping to remove debris in areas where bodies have been located.

“I lived here my whole life. I’m just doing everything and anything I can to help,” said Forrest Thompson, an 18-year-old logger who bucks trees in marathon shifts that extend far longer than a normal day in the woods.

In recent days, the logging crews and heavy-equipment contractors have morphed from volunteers to actual contractors as the search efforts have scaled up.

Meanwhile, other Darrington-based crews continue to work as volunteers.

As the days wear on, some of the Darrington searchers have rotated in and out of front line position, including Thompson, the cutter, who spent Saturday in town

He planned to head back in Sunday.

Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or hbernton@seattletimes.com



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