The mudslide that killed at least 16 people in Washington state last weekend and left more than 175 others unaccounted for buried Gary McPherson's 69-year-old wife, Linda, as she sat next to him in their Stillaguamish Valley home.
McPherson, 81, survived, though he doesn't remember the entire ordeal. The mudslide slammed into the house as the couple was reading the paper, pushing it 150 yards. When he came to, he was "still sitting upright in his heavy wooden chair," the Los Angeles Times reports. "A ceiling beam lay across his lap."
"He doesn't remember the house going across the pasture," the couple's 38-year-old daughter, Kate, told the newspaper. "He took six breaths and calmed himself down."
McPherson began digging through the mud with part of a wooden chair that shattered in the slide.
"Before he heard people coming, he was able to dig a hole and see the sky," Kate continued. "The whole time, he was calling for my mom, who was right next to him, but she never responded."
McPherson, a retired lumber mill worker, was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. But the loss of his wife, a retired librarian, will linger long after his release.
"He lost the love of his life," Kate said. "They were married 46 years. Emotionally, he can't believe this is happening. He's going to have to start life all over again."
Authorities announced late Tuesday that they have located eight more bodies, but they have yet to officially increase the death toll. Rescuers have found no survivors since Saturday, when a 4-year-old boy was rescued. But officials are not ruling out finding more.
"We haven't lost hope that there's a possibility that we can find somebody alive in some pocket area," Snohomish County District Fire Chief Travis Hots told reporters.
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