Man pulls his own sister's body from Washington mudslide
Days after risking his own life and defying arrest by joining the search for Washington state mudslide victims in a vast, mucky debris field near Oso, Dayn Brunner retrieves the body of his sister
12:13AM GMT 29 Mar 2014
A police officer involved in the frantic rescue effort after the Washington mudslide recovered the body of his own sister trapped in her car.
Dawn Brunner, 42, described how he was called by other rescue workers to inspect a blue object buried in the pile of mud.
Mr Brunner's sister, Summer Raffo, 36 was known to have been driving in the area.
He told his teenage son, who was also working as a volunteer with the search team, to brace himself.
"He said he'd been preparing himself for five days," Mr Brunner recalled.
At least 26 people are known to have died and with 90 others still missing, the death toll is expected to rise further.
As Mr Brunner and his son approached, they saw Ms Raffo's mud-covered body in the driving seat of the car.
After an hour of additional digging, Mr Brunner pulled her out by the torso and laid her body out on a sheet of tarpaulin. . It appeared that she had suffered a blow to the head, but her body was intact.
"She's the most pristine person that's come out of this," he said. "We know she didn't suffer. She most likely never saw it coming."
Soon after the recovery, her body was flown away by a helicopter. She has since been identified by the medical examiner's office, Mr Brunner said, but it was not immediately certain whether Ms Raffo was among the 17 victims officially counted among the dead as of Friday.
Mr Brunner took Thursday off but returned to the pile on Friday, and said he would keep going back until all those members of the community he was searching with had found their loved ones.
"You can find parts of people, and you can find people that obviously experienced a lot of trauma to their bodies," he said. "You can tell that someone had suffocated, some people had been tossed around pretty good and hit by other objects."
Mr Brunner said the family was planning a funeral toward the end of next week for his sister, who worked as a horse farrier and was on her way to a friend's farm when a rain-soaked hillside along Highway 530 collapsed and cascaded across the river and roadway below, swallowing dozens of homes and vehicles.