Heavy equipment operators wiped tears from their eyes as the body of a 5-year-old boy was pulled from a crumpled school bus at the bottom of a rock slide Saturday.
Crews continued to search for the body of a man missing in another part of the slide that dumped tons of debris on a gravel pit and the southbound lanes of U.S. 97A beside the Columbia River.
The Friday morning slide buried a 200-foot stretch of the southbound lanes as deep as 30 feet a few miles north of this central Washington town.
The two-lane highway was closed for nearly 30 miles, from just north of Wenatchee to near Chelan. Crews cleared debris and planned to reopen at least one lane by Sunday morning.
Traffic was rerouted along the east side of the river on U.S. 97.
Burlington Northern also closed its railroad track along the highway.
Gary Greene of Spokane said the missing man was his son-in-law, Tim Grace, 27, of Spokane, daytime foreman for Lloyd Logging of Twisp, a subcontractor at the gravel pit owned by Morrill Asphalt of Wenatchee. Lloyd Logging had been crushing rock at the site.
Grace, previously misidentified as the quarry manager, and his wife of three years, Nadine, 26, have a 3-year-old daughter and custody of Nadine’s 5-year-old daughter by a previous marriage, Greene said.
“He’s a real gritty guy with a great sense of humor,” Greene said, fighting back tears. “We’re going to miss him.”
Four dump trucks were moved to block the view of camera crews and a weeping Diana Davis when the body of her son, Tory, was located shortly after noon with help from search dogs.
Shawn Ballard of Ballard Ambulances, summoned to take the body to Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee, said it was too covered by dirt for the type of injuries to be apparent.
“There were a lot of teary eyes up there, a lot of big equipment operators looking red-eyed,” Ballard said.
The mother, who worked at the gravel pit and witnessed the slide Friday morning, was led away by relatives and friends.
Undersheriff Daryl Mathena said the bus was barely 2 feet high.
“The school bus was fairly demolished. It was crushed in some places and several pieces were almost flattened,” he said. “I’m saddened that he didn’t survive, but in a way it’s a relief that at least there’s an end.”
Amid the crumpled pieces of the bus were the boy’s turquoise windbreaker, gray sweatpants and a brightly colored sweatshirt.
Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Harum said the boy was seen near the modified bus, which was being used as a lab and office, when the slide hit.
Grace was last seen in the control room of a rock crusher at the opposite end of the work site, Harum said.
Using backhoes and bulldozers, crews uncovered a section of the rock crusher Friday night.
Backhoe operator Mark Germain said he and other rescuers tried looking in from two sides, but couldn’t see anything.
“The amount of weight on it is too much. If he’s underneath there, he’s been crushed,” Germain said.
Cause of the slide remained undetermined. Dick Anderson, director of the county roads department, said it amounted to at least 1 million cubic feet of silt, sand, gravel and boulders, roughly 100,000 truck loads.
The area has long been known to be unstable, and “it’s always dangerous,” Anderson said.
Two U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration officials at the scene refused to confirm reports that the agency inspected the site last week and approved it.
ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos (1 Color)
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