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Mudslide Hits House, Kills Family Of 4 Sunday Morning Slide Knocks House Into Puget Sound; Parents And Two Children Found Dead In Basement Bedrooms

Mon., Jan. 20, 1997

A waterfront house with a view of Seattle’s skyline was pushed into Puget Sound by a mudslide early Sunday morning, killing a family of four.

A local high school science teacher, his wife and their two young sons lived in the house in this island community of 18,000 west of Seattle, Bainbridge Island Fire Chief Kirk Stickels said.

Searchers - aided by dogs, cameras and sonar - worked frantically through the rainy, gray hours of the afternoon, hoping to find something before darkness fell.

They found four bodies in bedrooms in the daylight basement, which was buried under at least eight feet of mud and debris, Fire Department spokesman Ken Guy said.

The bodies were identified by Kitsap County Coroner Ted Zink as Dwight Herren, 43; his wife, Jennifer, in her 30s; and their sons, Skyler, 2, and Cooper, 3 months.

Autopsies have has been scheduled for Tuesday, Zink said.

The mudslide, estimated at 2,000 cubic yards - or about 150 dump-truck loads - slammed into the back of the house about 7:30 a.m.

“It basically knocked the house right off the foundation,” Larry Skinner, a Bainbridge Island building official, said.

One floor wound up on its side, submerged in at least five feet of water, while the second floor pancaked down onto the first floor, Stickels said.

Melting snow from storms late last month and steady rain in the last week have saturated hillsides on the island.

The same area was hit by mudslides last May. A house 100 to 200 feet from the Herren home was destroyed.

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