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Chief's toddler rescued, but search for family continues in Wash. mudslide

Body of Navy commander found Tuesday morning

Mar. 26, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
A flag, put up by volunteers helping search the area, stands in the ruins of a home March 25from the now-barren hillside seen about a mile behind in Oso, Wash.
A flag, put up by volunteers helping search the area, stands in the ruins of a home March 25from the now-barren hillside seen about a mile behind in Oso, Wash. (Elaine Thompson / AP)
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ARLINGTON, WASH. — “I’m from Pennsylvania — Scranton, Pennsylvania. I’m here because I love my family and I’m after them.”

Thirty-four-year-old Kevin Ryce has flown 3,000 miles to Washington on a personal rescue mission.

He’s gearing up at the Arlington Walmart for what could be the most difficult day of his life Wednesday.

“I’m shopping for boots and gloves for the search for my cousin,” said Ryce.

Ryce’s cousin Billy Spillers, a Navy chief petty officer, was living on Steelhead Drive in Oso with his wife Jonielle and their four children. They were watching TV when the mudslide hit Saturday, obliterating their street.

Rescuers found 4-year-old Jacob within hours.

“He was on the mudslide, stuck in the mud,” said Ryce.

A picture of the toddler being rescued keeps Ryce going.

“This is Jacob getting rescued by helicopter after they pulled his body out of the mud,” said Ryce, pointing to the snapshot.

His mother, Jonielle, wasn’t home, so she’s safe too. But Billy and three of the children, Brooke, Kaylee and Jovon, are missing.

At dawn, Ryce plans to head into the mud and debris and dig.

“You have to be out here with them, no matter what,” said Ryce. “I don’t like knowing that they’re still up there, still missing.”

A family split apart when a mountain slid and one man who will move mountains until they’re reunited.

Four-year-old Jacob is in good health and with his mother. They’re waiting for word on the rest of the family.

Media reports say Spiller is a Navy career counselor assigned to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility Detachment in Everett, Wash.

The body of Navy Cmdr. L. John Regelbrugge III, 49, was found Tuesday morning, according to the Seattle Times. Regelbrugge was a 32-year Navy veteran, said his sister-in-law, Jackie Leighton of Vacaville, Calif. His wife, Kris, was among the missing.

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