Crews keep up search in B.C. landslide debris

Search-and-rescue crews are continuing their work with heavy equipment and excavators to recover the remains of two people still unaccounted for after a landslide in southeastern B.C.

The B.C. Coroners Service is co-ordinating efforts to find 64-year-old Petra Frehse and a young woman whose sister and father were also victims in last Thursday's slide.

So far, the bodies of 60-year-old Valentine Webber and one of his two daughters have been located, though authorities have not confirmed whether the woman is 17-year-old Rachel Webber or 22-year-old Diana Webber.

Crews are focusing their efforts on the area where those remains were found and around the foundation of the cabin where Frehse, a German national, lived.

"Because we did find two victims in the last couple of days, it did encourage us," said Barb McLintock for the BC Coroner's Service, which is co-ordinating the recovery efforts in the hamlet northeast of Nelson, B.C.

About 24 people are currently involved in the search.

Three homes were destroyed when a creek burst and sent a powerful cascade of mud and trees rushing down onto the remote hamlet.

On Tuesday, there were 24 searchers divided into two teams at the site, located along Kootenay Lake more than 200 kilometres southwest of Calgary.

Expert help

McLintock said a technical expert based in the Kootenay region, who has worked on large-scale recovery cases for both the B.C. coroner and the RCMP, has been providing guidance about where to search.

"He's very good at figuring out, 'Okay, if we know they were in the house and this is where the foundation of the house is, and this is the layout that we know from before, where are they likely to be?"' she said.

"He's been right on so far and we just hope he continues to be."

McLintock said it will take some time to identify the girl whose remains were recovered because her body is coated in mud, making visual identification much more difficult.

"In some cases, if you can do it using clothing and jewellery -- it's usually easier than asking family members to go out and identify dead loved ones," she said.

The coroners office will use dental records or DNA if necessary, she said.

The province has said it plans to review what happened to determine whether any government policies should be changed.

A resident in the community noticed signs something was wrong the night before the hillside along Gar Creek collapsed. She sent an email about her concerns but it didn't reach the intended party until it was too late.

Premier Christy Clark has welcomed the review, but she said experts have already told her such slides are almost impossible to predict.

Another landslide that hit four days later in the town of Fairmont Hot Springs, 80 kilometres from the Johnsons Creek slide, did not injure anyone.

RCMP said on Tuesday they had received no reports of overdue travellers or missing people connected to that slide, which occurred at 4:45 p.m. on Sunday.

Police helicopters and dog teams have scoured the region to ensure no one was stranded, said Cpl. Dan Moskaluk.

About 600 people were initially stranded in an RV park after a bridge was washed out in the torrent of water, but crews restored their road access on Monday.