Sitka Landslide: One Body Found, Two Men Still Missing In Alaska Tragedy

One body has been recovered from the debris of the Sitka landslide in Alaska, while two other people remain unaccounted for, Alaska Dispatch News is reporting.

On Tuesday morning, a landslide carrying mud and debris tore through a construction site in the city of Sitka, Alaska, after nearly two and a half inches of rain fell on the city in 24 hours. Three men at the site — building inspector William Stortz, 62, and brothers Elmer Diaz, 26, and Ulises Diaz, 25, both painters — were swept up in the landslide and not seen alive again.

Sitka city employee David Longtin was at the construction site when the landslide hit. In remarks made available via Canada Journal, Longtin describes what happened.

“We heard a noise that sounded like wind, we looked up on the hillside and saw some 200 foot trees falling like dominoes, one after another. When I turned around to run, I saw [Stortz], he had a very concerned look on his face, he looked like he was ready to run, but we lost touch with him, you know, immediately when we started running down the hill.”

At about 7:00 p.m. Wednesday, according to MSN, rescuers using search dogs found one body, but they have not found the other two, alive or dead, as of this post. Officials have not released the identity of the person found, pending notification of relatives.

Meanwhile, further rescue and recovery at the site of the landslide has been hindered by the relentless rain, and by the fact that the steep ground has been difficult to stabilize.

Jeremy Zidek, a spokesman for the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said that sending workers and heavy equipment into already unstable ground could result in more people going missing.

“We don’t want to put additional people in harm’s way and compound the problem.”

Sitka police spokesperson Gary Crawford has been blunt with the families of the missing men.

“I don’t want you to lose hope, but I don’t want to give you false hope either.”

Sitka, Alaska, a city of about 9,000 people some 600 miles southeast of Anchorage, is a popular cruise ship destination, known almost as much for its near-constant rain as it is for its indescribably beautiful scenery, says MSN.

At least six landslides have struck Sitka in different parts of the city this week, but only one — the landslide that struck at the construction site — is known to have resulted in fatalities.

[Image courtesy of Twitter]