Girl, 11, confirmed as fourth victim of Alaska landslide, two people still missing

Nov 26, 2023, 5:04 PM

FILE - This photo provided by the Alaska Department of Public Safety shows the landslide that occur...

FILE - This photo provided by the Alaska Department of Public Safety shows the landslide that occurred the previous evening near Wrangell, Alaska, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023. Authorities recovered the body of Kara Heller, 11, Saturday evening, Nov. 25, from the debris of a landslide in southeast Alaska that tore down a wooded mountainside, smashing into the homes in a remote fishing village Monday night, Nov. 20. The girl is the fourth confirmed killed by the landslide from the Heller family. (Alaska Department of Public Safety via AP, File)

(Alaska Department of Public Safety via AP, File)

WRANGELL, Alaska (AP) — Authorities recovered the body of an 11-year-old girl Saturday evening from the debris of a landslide in southeast Alaska that tore down a wooded mountainside days earlier, smashing into homes in a remote fishing village.

The girl, Kara Heller, was the fourth person confirmed killed by last Monday night’s landslide.

The girl’s parents Timothy Heller, 44 and Beth Heller, 36, and her sister Mara Heller, 16, were discovered and confirmed dead in the initial days after the landslide. Search crews are looking for a third child still missing from the Heller family, Derek, 12, and neighbor Otto Florschutz, 65, according to Tim DeSpain, a spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Public Safety.

Florschutz’s wife survived the disaster.

The landslide came down in the direct path of three homes near Wrangell, a fishing community of about 2,000 residents located on an island about 155 miles (250 kilometers) south of Juneau.

DeSpain said the latest victim was found under debris in the slide area. Authorities used trained dogs and an excavator to find and recover the remains.

Photos showed the aftermath of the slide, which occurred during significant rainfall and heavy winds: a stark dirt path estimated to be 450 feet (135 meters) wide running from the top of a nearby mountain down to the ocean in the middle of lush evergreen trees. The debris field covered the coastal highway before reaching the sea.

Troopers had initially said a large-scale search and rescue mission wasn’t possible because the site was unstable and hazardous. But a geologist from the state transportation department later cleared areas of the debris field for ground searches.

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Girl, 11, confirmed as fourth victim of Alaska landslide, two people still missing