Couple forced to start over after narrow escape

OSO — Kris and LoAnna Langton figured they had found an idyllic place to raise their kids in their home of 1½ years west of Darrington.

They had moved there out of necessity after the Taylor Ridge Fire in Eastern Washington scorched 2,000 acres around their home near Ellensburg in August 2012. They were forced to flee Saturday when the deadly mudslide nearly swallowed their home on C-Post Road.

Yet today, they are still counting their blessings.

The slide ran out of steam near the chicken coop on the edge of the property, which the couple was renting. LoAnna was home with her mom, great aunt, her four children and three of her children’s friends. She was convinced they all were going to die as she watched trees snap like toothpicks and a giant wall of mud bearing down on them.

She was feeding her 3-month-old son Kristian in his highchair when she heard the screams from the kids playing outside. “I told all the kids to get in the back bedroom, which is where I thought I was sending us all to die,” she said. “Basically, I just figured I would keep us all together.”

Then it grew quiet. LoAnna ventured out. She heard from one neighbor, who asked her to call her daughter. She dialed 911 for another neighbor who said his arm was injured. A good Samaritan cut fallen branches that blocked her driveway and she made her way to stable ground in a full Suburban.

When Kris Langton heard the news of the mudslide he raced toward home thorough Arlington.

His focus — ill-advised in some circles — was to reach his family. He left his car and started wading through the mire, and soon was hip deep. It was a chaotic journey with rescue helicopters hovering overhead and the smell of gas, diesel and propane in the air. He said he encountered a mother and her baby son trapped in the muck and flagged down others to come to their aid. The woman, 25-year-old Amanda Skorjanc, and her son were flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle where they are continuing to recover.

Later he came upon two men — one in his 50s, the other in his 80s — trapped in their battered homes. He pulled off debris, assessed their needs, offered words of comfort, and waved down help before turning his attention back toward finding his family.

He knows many people would question his judgment, but he said he feels there was some divine intervention with him that day. “I was on God’s shoulders. He was carrying me through it all,” he said.

Late Saturday afternoon, the couple — married at 18 more than a dozen years ago — were reunited at a checkpoint.

On Monday, Kris took a boat ride out to their flooded home.

On Tuesday, he was among the dozens of volunteers combing the debris fields.

Soon he will return to work building a house near Lake Goodwin.

With no home to return to, the couple plan to stick together. That means they will likely move again, leaving behind the town they have grown to love.

“We are so heartbroken to be leaving Darrington,” said LoAnna, eating dinner at the American Red Cross shelter at the town’s Community Center Monday night. “We just love it here, but we just feel we don’t have any other choice.”

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; estevick@heraldnet.com.

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