By Steve Gorman
(Reuters) – Search teams in Washington State have found the remains of a person thought to be the last victim of a mudslide that buried an entire community in March and killed 43 people, county authorities said.
The body believed to be that of 44-year-old Molly Kristine “Kris” Regelbrugge was located Tuesday morning on the western edge of the disaster site. Medical examiners expect to confirm identification once the remains are recovered, according to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.
The Seattle Times reported that the body was found in a deep pocket of debris believed to have been the garage of Regelbrugge’s home, about 100 yards from the spot where the remains of her husband, U.S. Navy Commander L. John Regelbrugge III, were recovered on March 25.
PHOTOS: Washington state mudslide
They were among 43 people who perished when a rain-soaked hillside collapsed above the north fork of the Stillaguamish River, unleashing a torrent of mud that obliterated the enclave of Steelhead Haven on the outskirts of Oso, Washington, 55 miles northeast of Seattle.
More than 50 homes were swallowed in the March 22 landslide, the deadliest in U.S. history.
A 186-page report sponsored by the National Science Foundation from a team of experts who examined the site said it was “highly probable” that three weeks of heavy showers immediately preceding the event had “played a major role in triggering the landslide.”
But the scientists said they did not reach any definitive conclusions as to whether logging in the area was a factor. The same river valley has had a long history of landslides, most of which predated timber harvesting, they said.
“Our investigation is not intended to be a final, conclusive study of the landslide, and we did not seek to unequivocally establish causative factors,” the scientists said in the report, which they characterized as a preliminary assessment.
They did, however, largely rule out the possibility that an earthquake triggered the slide, saying records indicated no significant seismic activity in the days before the disaster.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman from Los Angeles; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)