Ashcroft RCMP have confirmed that the search for Valerie Morris, who was swept away by a mudslide on Highway 99 on August 11, has turned into a recovery mission.
Morris, who was 67, was travelling with her husband Tom in their vintage Morgan convertible. The Sechelt couple had organized a trip to Kamloops with other members of the Pacific Morgan Owners Group.
The group of six vehicles was heading to the Hot Night in the City classic car event, with the participants planning to stay overnight in Kamloops. However, a lightning storm and torrential rains in the late afternoon of August 11 forced the cars to pull over at various places along Highway 99 northwest of Cache Creek, to put the tops up.
Tom was just about to get back into the car when what one witness described as “a wall of water and mud” came sweeping down the hillside. Glenn Sorko, a member of the group who had been stranded nearby, managed to pull Tom to safety, and searched in vain for Valerie.
Tom Morris was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening images, and has since been released.
Ashcroft RCMP, along with assistance from the RCMP Police Dog Service, Search and Rescue, and the Fire Service, continued the search through August 15. However, efforts were hampered by the quick-moving water and unsafe conditions in and around the area of the mudslide, one of 17 to come down in a 10-kilometre stretch of Highway 99.
Ashcroft RCMP detachment commander Sgt. Kathleen Thain says that the search for Valerie Morris became a recovery mission on August 15, but that the announcement was not made until after Tom had been informed.
“We still have everyone searching,” she says. “We’ll be searching through the weekend.
“Conditions have improved to some degree. The water level is down in Hat Creek, and new areas have been exposed. But the depth of the slide is still hampering us.”
Mudslides caused by the heavy rains on August 11 closed Highway 99 for more than 36 hours, and also forced the closure of other Interior highways for extended periods. Another mudslide in the area of Highway 99 trapped six people inside their home when mud filled the entire first floor, prompting a rescue by local RCMP. All six people were extricated safely.