EVERETT — On the four-month anniversary of the March 22 Oso slide, Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary reported that his search and rescue personnel believed they'd located the body of 44-year-old Molly Kristine "Kris" Regelbrugge of Arlington, the last of the 43 victims' bodies to be recovered. The Snohomish County Medical Examiner's Office confirmed this identification the next day.
"I'm humbled and honored that we are able return Kris to her family," Trenary said.
The body was located at approximately 8 a.m. July 22 on the west side of the slide site, south of State Route 530. Search and rescue personnel used evidence-based search techniques, often employed by law enforcement in missing persons cases. Personal items believed to belong to the Regelbrugge family had been located in the area.
"It is a testament to the persistence of the sheriff's office that, four months after the slide, we recovered the final victim," Snohomish County Executive John Lovick said. "The sheriff's search and rescue teams are true professionals. I am honored and humbled by their dedication and commitment to this community."
Although the active search for the remaining slide victims ended April 28, Trenary emphasized that search and rescue personnel continued to follow up on evidence obtained from the community, which led to the May 22 recovery of 53-year-old Steven Hadaway.
Kris' husband, Navy Cmdr. John Regelbrugge III, was one of the 41 other victims whose bodies were recovered earlier. Both were at home when the slide hit.
"The folks from Darrington, Oso and Arlington never stopped being active partners in the search," said Trenary, who also credited members of the county executive and medical examiner's offices, as well as the public works department, the U.S. Navy, IMCO Construction, and Sheriff's Sgt. Danny Wikstrom and Deputy Glen Bergstrom. "I never imagined that we would have to face this level of tragedy, or that so many people would step up to help us deal with it."
Trenary explained that, over the course of the past two weeks, uncovered evidence of the Regelbrugge household led searchers in a circuitous route through a trail of debris from the couple's garage, until searchers found a body that was much deeper than any of the other bodies, about 100 yards from where John Regelbrugge was located.
The recovery of the body was lengthy, since the area needed to be made safe for personnel.
"We all wanted this day, but it represents not so much closure as the end of a chapter, because we don't want to underplay the loss of life here," Trenary said. "Every day, we had new information, but this time, the evidence led us to where we needed to be."