By Sharon Salyer and Eric Stevick Herald Writers
EVERETT — There was the formal military goodbye: the playing of taps, the firing of three volleys of shots, and folded American flags given to family members.
There also were tearful farewells as an estimated 350 people turned out Sunday morning at the Everett Holiday Inn to honor four people killed in the massive Oso mudslide: Thom Satterlee, 65; his wife, Marcy Satterlee, 61; their 19-year-old granddaughter, Delaney Webb, of Marysville; and Alan Bejvl, her 21-year-old fiance, from Darrington.
While mourners honored the four lives lost, engineers Sunday were finishing plans to build a berm they expect will divert water from a 267-acre section of the slide area that so far has only been searched by boat.
Also Sunday, the leaders of two major federal agencies helping with disaster relief surveyed the slide area and spoke with workers scouring the debris fields. Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Craig Fugate and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson toured the area with Gov. Jay Inslee, Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Rep. Suzan DelBene.
Hundreds of searchers, including 350 National Guardsmen, continued to comb the mounds of dirt and rubble 15 days after the deadly slide..
As of Sunday night, the number of people confirmed dead by the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office stood at 30 with 29 identified. The list of people reported missing remained at 13. An update is expected Monday, officials said.
At Sunday’s memorial service, there was laughter as people recalled stories and watched a slideshow of pictures from birth to adulthood of Webb, Bejvl and the Satterlees.
Jim Boulet, Marcy Satterlee’s brother, said his sister once remarked that as children they had never really played together.
“It’s not too late,” she told him, reaching for two kites she kept at the house for her grandchildren to play with.
They drove to Kayak Point and there was just enough breeze for the kites to be launched. “I will never see a kite again in my life without thinking of Marcy,” he said.
Thom Satterlee was remembered for his service in the Marines during the war in Vietnam. His sister, Debbie Satterlee, had previously said that her brother carried the emotional scars with him for decades before finally being treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in his 50s.
No mention was made Sunday of Thom Satterlee’s skepticism of government, including his ardent campaign to carve a new Freedom County from a 1,000-square-mile area in Snohomish County.
Instead, there was stories and pictures of how much he and his wife enjoyed their home and garden near the banks of the North Fork Stillaguamish River, an area with views framed by the Cascade Range.
An honor guard from the Washington National Guard played taps and fired a ceremonial salute before marching into the room to present American flags to each of the relatives.
The chaplain Sunday, Linda Haptonstall of the King County Sheriff’s Office, reminded the audience of how far-reaching the emotional impact of the mudslide has been. She said she had received a message from someone in Africa, offering prayers for the families of those who had lost loved ones.
Family members of Webb and Bejvl recalled how much joy the pair took in their relationship. The couple had planned a wedding at the Satterlee’s Oso home Aug. 16.
Sunday’s remembrance was the fourth memorial service held for people killed in the mudslide.
On Saturday, memorial services were held for Linda McPherson, a retired Darrington librarian and longtime school board member; Summer Raffo, a hard-working young woman who loved caring for horses; and Joseph Miller, who cherished spending time in the outdoors with his father.
On Monday morning, around-the-clock construction work is expected to begin on a temporary berm along the river. The aim of the work is to divert water and pump 267 acres dry. It comes at the request of searchers who believe some missing slide victims could be found on the Darrington side near C-Post Road.
“Obviously, this is an area we want to search,” said Sean Whitcomb, a Seattle police sergeant and a search spokesman. “This is an area that hasn’t been searched by dogs.”
The rock berm could take a week to build, said Owen Carter, Snohomish County’s deputy public works director. It will be about 12 feet high and five to 10 feet tall.
Water now flooding the site will be pumped back into the river channel.
An eight-member construction management team from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will oversee the project, said Mike Peele, a civil engineer for the agency and flood team leader for the command operation.
Searchers have been painstakingly working their way through the debris field in 40-foot-by-40-foot sections. That’s a bit smaller than half a basketball court. The area are first examined using dogs and people. After that, searchers use excavators to carefully peel back debris in layers of two to four feet. The excavations continue until the searchers reach ground level before the slide.
The flooded ground hasn’t yet had that sort of examination. It is a place searchers are eager to get to, said Kyle Ohashi, a captain with the Kent Fire Department.
While they have combed the water’s surface, it is hard to know what is below.
“They would like to search it with the same degree of thoroughness” as other areas where bodies have been recovered, Ohashi said.
Sharon Salyer, 425-339-3486; firstname.lastname@example.org.