By Andrea Brown and Alejandro Dominguez Herald Writers
He’s the toddler plucked from the mud a week ago by helicopter.
Stunning footage of the boy who survived the March 22 mudslide near Oso captivated the world, along with images of the treacherous sea of muck and broken lives.
A small figure in blue shirt and underwear, his bare legs coated with mud, Jacob Spillers was the ray of hope that others would be found alive.
Hope is diminishing.
On Thursday, his 5-year-old sister, Kaylee, was confirmed dead.
Still missing are three other family members: his father, Billy Spillers, 30, a chief petty officer at Naval Station Everett, and siblings Brooke Spillers, 2, and Jovon Mangual, 13.
His mother, Jonielle Spillers, a nursing assistant, was at work Saturday morning when the slide hit their Steelhead Avenue home.
She is understandably in seclusion now, and information on social media and accounts by relatives illustrate the magnitude of her loss.
Jonielle describes herself as a stay-at-home mom and wife in her Facebook profile, which also has lots of pictures of the children. The page was used to share photos and sentiments during Billy Spillers’ deployment last year. Photos show an imposing man in dress blues on his first day reporting as a command career counselor.
The Pennsylvania native enlisted in the Navy in 2002. Onboard the USS Momsen, he was named “Destroyer Squadron Nine Sailor of the Year” for 2009. He earned Navy and Marine Corps achievement medals and unit awards.
On that Saturday morning, Billy Spillers and the children were apparently watching TV when the mud swallowed their home. Jacob was in another room at the time, and that might be why he survived.
A camera attached to the Snohomish County rescue helicopter recorded video of the crew hovering over the sea of gray and brown muck. After several minutes, the shaky images and muffled conversations culminate with workers dropping down and wading through the mud to pull Jacob to safety.
It was one of 11 rescues by the Snohawk 10 crew Saturday.
A message on Jonielle Spillers’ Facebook page two days after the mudslide was hopeful: “Billy and kids hold on I love you and we are waiting for you for as long as it takes stay strong honey.”
Family friend Mary St. John started a fundraising page earlier this week.
It has already raised more than $31,000 from 371 supporters, including USS Momsen crewmates, friends and strangers. Many offered prayers as well as money.
Pennsylvania relative Kevin Ryce came 3,000 miles to Washington to assist the rescue mission. “In Washington state searching for my family,” Ryce wrote on his Facebook page.
The family moved to Oso two years ago. The Spillers celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary last November. Jovon is Jonielle’s son from a previous marriage.
The Seattle Times quoted Jovon’s father, Army Staff Sgt. Jose Mangual, who came from Colorado, as saying, “I’m not leaving until I find him.”
The dad described Jovon, a student at Post Middle School in Arlington, as a “very happy” seventh-grader who enjoys playing sports.
On Jovon’s Facebook page, he claims he was a running back for the Indianapolis Colts.
Jovon’s paternal great-aunt, Ruth Fuentes, told Puerto Rico’s El Nuevo Dia newspaper on Tuesday that he always showed her pictures of his half-siblings when he visited her on the island every year. Fuentes described him as kind and known as the “strawberry man” for his love of the fruit. His favorite dish is steak with onions and beans.
She was still clinging to hope, saying she will make that dish when he is found alive.
Gale Fiege contributed to this report.
Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; firstname.lastname@example.org. Alejandro Dominguez; 425-339-3009.
How to help
To make donations to help the Spillers, go to https://www.youcaring.com/other/donations-for-jonielle-spiller-washington-mudslide-victim/154106.