While heavy machinery tore through tons of mangled muddy debris Tuesday, down the road, one man trudged on foot through endless mud and flowing water.
Dayn Brunner told Seattle TV station KIRO that until Tuesday, he was sneaking into the slide zone illegally, daily. He says he was trespassing, while conducting a one-man search for a lost family member.
“Yesterday we went in rogue,” said Brunner. “Sunday we went in rogue, and Saturday we went in rogue as well, because I was not going to listen to anyone tell me I couldn't go in there to try and find my sister,” he said.
Brunner’s sister, 36-year-old Summer Raffo, was likely buried alive as she drove Highway 530 through the heart of the mudslide. As soon as Brunner heard she was missing, he began digging in the area with shovels and his bare hands. He was frustrated because for the first 48 hours, he says rescue workers were not helping him. He was also being threatened with arrest.
“There were people calling me saying hey the Sheriff’s office is coming to get you,” he said. “They said they’re going to take you out. I said to those people, ‘let them try, there's thirty of us digging here and I'm sure there's not thirty cops."
Tuesday morning, for the very first time, Brunner and dozens more volunteers were allowed to officially register and join the professional search groups. But Brunner knows dozens more are still searching the area without permission. Slide survivor James Mead says a complete stranger, who also defied police orders--heroically saved his family's life.
“He took out his chainsaw, he hopped into his truck, he came out and told the cops he could be ‘tasered’ all they want, he was definitely going to save us,” said Mead.
It is in that spirit that Brunner says he will go back into the slide area known as ‘The Pile’ tomorrow, whether it's legal or not. He’s hoping he might uncover any shred of evidence leading to his missing sister.
“When you know your sister is out there, somewhere and you know there's other loved ones out there, you just go,” Brunner said. “That’s just how Darrington rolls. We get people out,” he said.