County workers recall harrowing experience during Kalama landsli - KPTV - FOX 12

County workers recall harrowing experience during Kalama landslide

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(Photo: Deputy Landon Jones) (Photo: Deputy Landon Jones)
(Photo: Deputy Landon Jones) (Photo: Deputy Landon Jones)
KALAMA, WA (KPTV) -

A Cowlitz County equipment operator credits his fellow operator and crew-mate for the warning that may have saved his life during Tuesday’s landslide in Kalama.

Gary Ripp was operating an excavator, clearing a small slide on Kalama River Road, when he heard his co-worker, Mark LaFavre shout over the radio that the hillside above him was coming down.

“As I tried to outrun it, I swung my cab away from the debris coming down and the next thing I know, I went for a pretty good ride,” said Ripp.

LaFavre, meanwhile, watched Ripp’s excavator swept away by debris, fearing the worst.

“It was one of the scariest moments of my life,” said LaFavre.

Ripp recalls the excavator tumbling over backwards, eventually coming to rest on its side about a hundred yards from where it started.  As soon as it stopped moving, he said, it began to fill with mud.

“It buried me to about my waist because I was still sitting in the seat.  And I went out the boom side of the machine because every side was buried,” said Ripp.

LaFavre eventually saw movement near the crippled excavator, and said Ripp flashed him two thumbs up.

His and Ripp’s day wouldn’t end there, though.  Immediately following Ripp’s harrowing experience, the two helped Sheriff’s deputies rescue a man who was trapped in his home by the same slide that toppled the excavator.

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