What started as a trip to deal with flooding at a Johnsons Landing cabin turned into an attempt to help the community after a massive slide swept through town yesterday morning.
Greg Utzig and his partner Nelson city councillor Donna Macdonald have owned a cabin in the small community north of Kaslo for nearly 30 years.
Utzig was on his way to the cabin to deal with a flooding problem that he said became “pretty insignificant in comparison.”
“People were in shock, and secondly people were trying to find out which houses were hit and where people were and whether they were there or weren’t there. Then we decided which houses we were going to search,” he said.
Members of the community began searching the houses before search and rescue crews were on site.
“There wasn’t much to go through in the case of the search I was involved in, a house that was two stories was now about two metres high,” said Utzig. “It was shocking and distressing. And people who were just outside the zone who stood by and watched it are pretty shaken up.”
Utzig said he knows the four people who are still unaccounted for and are two adults and the man’s two daughters who are in their teens or early 20s.
“It’s a small group of people, including temporary residents it’s about 60 people all together; there are probably about 40 or 45 permanent residents,” he said. “It’s fairly tight knit because it’s the end of the road they are often without communication because hydro lines are being cut or phone lines going down and people work together because they are in that kind of isolated situation.”
Reports from the Regional District of Central Kootenay said that the slide was initiated around 11 a.m., Utzig said that the believed the main slide had occured about 10:30 a.m.
“We arrived in Johnsons Landing about 11 a.m. and the slide had already come through,” he said. “It started about 400 metres above the community and it is a large event, we’re talking about a large slide compared to others we see around here. It came down the Gar Creek Valley which is a fairly narrow gully, just when it entered the Gar Creek takes an abrupt turn and part of the slide didn’t take that turn and went up over a little hill into an area where there was half a dozen houses.”
Searches for the missing residents were called off last night as darkness fell, but emergency personnel planned to meet early this morning to assess and plan prior to resuming the search.