‘I did not let that baby go for one second’: Mother tells story of mudslide

SEATTLE — Amanda Skorjanc heard a terrifying noise. The hill above her Oso home had just collapsed with a sound she will never forget.

At first, it sounded like a truck off a rumble strip, she said.

Then the lights at her home started to shake and blink.

“It was like a movie,” she said. “Houses were exploding. The next thing I see is my neighbor’s chimney coming into the front door.”

Skorjanc said when she saw the wave of mud and debris heading toward her, she grabbed her five-month-old son, Duke Suddarth, and held him to her tightly.

“That’s when it hit us,” she said. “I did not let that baby go for one second.”

Skorjanc remembers crying out to God: “Please save us.”

“It got dark around us and it was throwing us all over the place,” she said. “It was very, very strong and very violent.”

Skorjanc, 25, a survivor of the massive Oso landslide on March 22, is still hospitalized at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center with multiple fractures to her eye, arm, leg and ankle. She talked for the first time Wednesday about surviving the disaster, which has killed at least 36 people. Ten others are missing.

Skorjanc said that when the mud and debris finally stopped moving, she found herself about 700 feet from her home in a group of trees. She and her son were caught in the pieces of a broken couch. “We were in this little cushioned pocket,” she said. “We had very little debris around us, a piece of ceiling and two-by-fours.”

Her legs were trapped from the knees down. “Here I am trapped with my child and this debris and I can’t move and I can’t scream loud enough for help,” she said. “We live in Oso. It would take a while for people to come.”

Skorjanc said she never lost consciousness. “I felt and heard and saw everything going on,” she said.

She tried to move her son to a spot where he would be more easily found, but it was impossible. “My arm was so broken, I couldn’t move it.”

Holding her son to her chest, she looked down at him and saw he was beginning to turn blue.

“I thought I was losing him,” she said. “I would say, ‘Stay with me Bud,’ and ask God not to take him in front of me.” It was an image, she said, that “will stay with me forever.”

Suddenly she heard someone yelling, asking if anyone was there. Her son began to cry. “I stuck my hand out where we had this little space. I told them he was five months old,” she said.

Amanda said it took about six people, using two chainsaws, to free her from the couch.

A helicopter team from the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office initially transported her to Cascade Valley Hospital in Arlington.

Her partner, Ty Suddarth, had hugged both her and their son goodbye that morning to run an errand in Darrington. He found out about the mudslide from his brother, who called to tell him “everything might be gone.”

Suddarth said he went to the Oso firehouse to await news and first got word Amanda had survived and later that Duke had been rescued.

Duke was taken to Harborview for treatment of a fractured skull and initially was listed in critical condition in intensive care. He made such steady progress that on April 1 he was transferred to Seattle Children’s Hospital. His parents declined to be more specific about his condition and said they don’t know when he might be able to come home.

Skorjanc was transferred to Harborview in Seattle the day of the disaster. Her injuries have required six surgeries.

Her physician, Dr. Daphne Beingessner, said Wednesday that Skorjanc will need to use a wheelchair for about 10 weeks, and it could take a year for her to more fully recover. She also could face long-term problems with stiffness or arthritis, particularly in her fractured ankle.

The couple said they want to meet those who helped in the rescue. “There’s a lot of amazing people who stepped up,” she said. “They did something we can’t repay them for.”

She said she still struggles with her emotions every day and feels blessed that she, Suddarth and their son all survived. “At the same time, I feel guilty that I have my family and some don’t,” she said.

A basket near her hospital bed is stuffed with cards from well-wishers, many from people she doesn’t know. “I’m so overwhelmed with the love and support we get every day,” she said. “It helps. It really does. There are no words to say how grateful I am.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Harvey Field seeks to reroute runway in floodplain, faces new pushback

Snohomish farmers and neighbors worry the project will be disruptive and worsen flooding. Ownership advised people to “read the science.”

IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amid lockout, Boeing, union firefighters return to bargaining table

The firefighters and the planemaker held limited negotiations this week: They plan to meet again Monday, but a lockout continues.

A mountain goats in the North Cascades east of Marblemount in August 2017. (Caleb Hutton / The Herald)
Ahead of grizzly arrival, wildlife advocates assess past translocations

Moving animals has helped struggling populations to rebound. And advocates point to past examples as evidence that “it’s not ethical to do nothing.”

Julie Timm
Sound Transit’s $375K payout to ex-CEO didn’t buy help

Board members said Julie Timm would give professional advice to them or a future CEO after leaving, but she hasn’t been called upon.

FILE -- An engine on a Boeing 767 jet aircraft, at a Boeing facility in Everett, Wash., March 7, 2012. The Boeing 737 engine that failed on Southwest Flight 1380 is not the only one that has caught the eye of regulators: Engines on Boeing's 787 Dreamliner and 767 have also failed, prompting questions about their design and inspection procedures. (Stuart Isett/The New York Times)
Boeing 767, built in Everett, gets 5-year lifeline from Congress

Boeing would have been forced to end production of the 767 Freighter in 2027 due to new emissions rules if not for the extension.

Snohomish County Jail. (Herald file)
Inmate, 51, dies at Snohomish County Jail

Around 3 p.m., corrections staff called 911 about an inmate, who became unresponsive as firefighters arrived. He died at the scene.

With the Olympic mountains in the background, Boeing's 777x lifts off from Paine Field on its first flight, to Boeing Field in Seattle, on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020 in Everett, Wash. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
1 dead, dozens injured after turbulence on Boeing plane

A Singapore Airlines flight from London was diverted to Bangkok, where more than 70 people were being treated for injuries.

Two people fight on the side of I-5 neat Marysville. (Photo provided by WSDOT)
Idaho man identified in fatal trooper shooting on I-5 near Everett

The deceased man was Marvin Arellano, 31, of Nampa, Idaho, according to the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office.

State Sen. Mark Mullet, left, and Attorney General Bob Ferguson, are both running as Democrats for governor in 2024. (Photos provided)
Did Bob Ferguson go too far responding to fellow Fergusons?

Ferguson wanted the secretary of state to redo the ballot. Mark Mullet, a Democratic rival, says such a move would’ve broken the law.

Photo by Gina Shields of GM Photography
Whidbey Island to salute the fallen for Memorial Day

All are invited to honor those who have fallen at three events on Whidbey Island.

Boeing firefighters and supporters hold an informational picket at Airport Road and Kasch Park Road on Monday, April 29, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Boeing union firefighters to vote on new contract proposal

The company made the offer after “a productive session” of bargaining and reported the amended contract includes an “improved wage growth schedule.”

Catholic Community Services NW Director of Housing Services and Everett Family Center Director Rita Jo Case, right, speaks to a man who asked to remain anonymous, left, during a point-in-time count of people facing homelessness in Everett, Washington on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Homelessness down nearly 10% in Snohomish County, annual count shows

The county identified 1,161 people without permanent housing, down from 1,285 last year. But lack of resources is still a problem, advocates said.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.