Identity of last Oso mudslide victim confirmed

UPDATE: Molly Kristine “Kris” Regelbrugge has been removed from the list of people missing in the Oso landslide and added to the list of 43 confirmed victims, county officials said Wednesday morning.

The Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office has confirmed Regelbrugge was the person found at the slide site on Tuesday, sheriff’s spokeswoman Shari Ireton said.

“At this time, there are no person unaccounted for following the March 22 landslide,” she said.

——————-

OSO — Searchers believe they have found Kristine “Kris” Regelbrugge, the final missing victim of the March 22 Oso mudslide.

Regelbrugge was among 43 people buried in the slide. She was 44.

Persistence, with a little luck, paid off.

Clues led searchers to the rubble of Regelbrugge’s garage, buried under about 18 feet of debris, Sheriff Ty Trenary said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

“She was much deeper… than we expected her to be,” Trenary said.

Although forensic confirmation by the Snohomish County Medical Examiner is necessary, sheriff’s officials are confident it was Regelbrugge they found about 8 a.m. Tuesday.

“Four months ago, I never imagined we would be where we are today,” Trenary said.

The Oso slide is the deadliest in U.S. history. It buried a square-mile area of the valley under a deep blanket of mud, clay, trees and flood waters.

In the days afterwards, Trenary’s deputies consulted with sheriff’s offices in counties in Colorado where widespread flooding last fall resulted in multiple deaths. Several of the bodies in that disaster were never found.

“Here in Snohomish County, we had to prepare ourselves for a similar fate,” Trenary said.

Gov. Jay Inslee said the work done to find all of those who died in the mudslide was extraordinary.

“This is hopefully going to bring some relief to the family,” he said. “It’s one of those things you can’t consider a blessing; you might consider a balm.”

Sara Regelbrugge, one of the couple’s daughters, said Tuesday that the family is reserving comment until more details are known. The family doesn’t want to get its hopes up until there is medical confirmation, she said.

Navy Cmdr. John Regelbrugge III, 49, also died in the slide. His body was found by two brothers and two sons in March.

The couple were at their home on Steelhead Drive when the slide hit. They were the parents of five grown children.

John Regelbrugge was the officer in charge of the Everett maintenance detachment of the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. He was two years from retirement.

He served 32 years in the Navy, including 13 overseas deployments, the last in 2013.

Snohomish County sheriff’s search and rescue personnel, working with others, made Tuesday’s discovery on the west side of the slide, south of Highway 530. The woman’s body was about 100 yards from where John Regelbrugge was recovered.

Personal items believed to belong to the Regelbrugge family recently found in the area became a trail of clues.

Trenary had particular praise for Sgt. Danny Wikstrom and deputy Glen Bergstrom, who lives in Oso. The pair have worked search-and-rescue in the county for years, and were involved in the mudslide response from the outset.

“I’m humbled and honored that we are able return Kris to her family,” Trenary said. “I’m also extremely grateful to the communities of Oso, Darrington and Arlington who stood beside us these past four months in our efforts to recover all of the missing victims.”

Search-and-rescue crews used evidence-based techniques often employed by police in missing persons cases to aid them in their search. The knowledge, support and pressure from the community pushed searchers to not give up.

It has been two months since the 42nd mudslide victim was recovered. Steven Hadaway, 53, of Darrington was found May 22. The morning of the mudslide he’d been installing a satellite dish on the roof of Amanda Lennick’s Steelhead Haven house. She also perished.

His brother, John Hadaway, cried when he learned that the sheriff’s office was confident it had found Kris Regelbrugge.

“It’s a very emotional day. It’s tears of joy,” Hadaway said. “On the other hand, it’s just so, so sad.”

Hadaway spent time in the debris fields searching for his brother. He knew the odds were against finding everyone, but also felt that the community would “never, never, never” give up.

“Finding one person is a miracle, but 43 out of 43, I don’t think there are words in the dictionary for that.”

Each of the victims identified so far died from multiple blunt force injuries, according to medical examiner reports.

For more than a month after the slide, up to 1,000 searchers crawled over the site, looking for victims. The active search was suspended in late April, but spotters have stood watch, first as crews with heavy equipment excavated Highway 530 and, lately, as the debris piles are broken down.

Since April, the sheriff’s office quietly deployed people back to the slide area on more than a half-dozen occasions. Their mission was to follow up on what were considered promising clues about Regelbrugge’s location, often suggested by locals.

Searchers last week found items belonging to the couple and focused their efforts in that area.

The Regelbrugges are survived by two daughters, Sara and Shante; three sons, Kyle, Scott and Brian; and two grandchildren.

“It is a testament to the persistence of the sheriff’s office that today, four months after the slide, we recovered the final victim,” said Snohomish County Executive John Lovick. “The sheriff’s search and rescue teams are true professionals. I am honored and humbled by their dedication and commitment to this community.”

Meanwhile, a special county-state panel will soon begin examining circumstances preceding the landslide and the emergency response when the hill gave way.

Inslee and Lovick had been expected to launch the commission Tuesday but the announcement was postponed.

“There are a few last-minute pieces that had to be worked out,” said Jaime Smith, spokeswoman for the governor. “People have a lot of questions and (we) want to try to answer those before we announce.”

Jerry Cornfield contributed to this report

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@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

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Snohomish in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Driver arrested in fatal crash on Highway 522 in Maltby

The driver reportedly rear-ended Jeffrey Nissen as he slowed down for traffic. Nissen, 28, was ejected and died at the scene.

PAWS Veterinarian Bethany Groves in the new surgery room at the newest PAWS location on Saturday, April 20, 2024 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New Snohomish hospital makes ‘massive difference’ for wild animals

Lynnwood’s Progressive Animal Welfare Society will soon move animals to its state of the art, 25-acre facility.

Traffic builds up at the intersection of 152nd St NE and 51st Ave S on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Here’s your chance to weigh in on how Marysville will look in 20 years

Marysville is updating its comprehensive plan and wants the public to weigh in on road project priorities.

Mountlake Terrace Mayor Kyko Matsumoto-Wright on Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Mountlake Terrace, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
With light rail coming soon, Mountlake Terrace’s moment is nearly here

The anticipated arrival of the northern Link expansion is another sign of a rapidly changing city.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Snohomish in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
1 dead in motorcycle crash on Highway 522 in Maltby

Authorities didn’t have any immediate details about the crash that fully blocked the highway Friday afternoon.

Photographs in the 2024 Annual Black and White Photography Contest on display at the Schack Art Center on Thursday, April 18, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Black and white photos aren’t old school for teens at Schack Art Center

The photography contest, in its 29th year, had over 170 entries. See it at the Schack in Everett through May 5.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett mom charged with first-degree murder in death of son, 4

On Friday, prosecutors charged Janet Garcia, 27, three weeks after Ariel Garcia went missing from an Everett apartment.

Dr. Mary Templeton (Photo provided by Lake Stevens School District)
Lake Stevens selects new school superintendent

Mary Templeton, who holds the top job in the Washougal School District, will take over from Ken Collins this summer.

A closed road at the Heather Lake Trail parking lot along the Mountain Loop Highway in Snohomish County, Washington on Wednesday, July 20, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Mountain Loop Highway partially reopens Friday

Closed since December, part of the route to some of the region’s best hikes remains closed due to construction.

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.