Sheriff briefs media on mudslide; search on for three missing men

The massive slide area covers miles along a ridgeline on Grand Mesa in the West Salt Creek drainage area of Grand Mesa.

UPDATE: The three missing men are Clancy Nichols, a Mesa County road and bridge employee, his son, Danny, and Wes Hawkins.

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At a press conference near Collbran today, a day after a huge mudslide along Salt Creek wiped out a significant area near Vega Reservoir, Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey said the word “massive” does not begin to describe the slide or the damage that it caused.

Hilkey said the slide area is being measured in miles, as opposed to feet, in comparing the Collbran area slide with a similar slide in Washington state that killed 43 people in March.

Hilkey told a throng of media a few miles from the slide site that a “big chunk” of the mountainside that makes up part of Grand Mesa essentially broke away from the rest of the mountain.

The search is on today for three people still unaccounted for. Hilkey said the men were likely checking on irrigation infrastructure in the remote area when the slide happened. Some 40 to 50 rescuers are part of the search effort to find the missing men, who have not be heard from since the slide happened late yesterday.

Rescuers are sending teams from either end of the slide in their search. Officials report that the area is still unstable, and part of the slide has formed an area collecting water behind it.

A helicopter has been flying over the area aiding the search all morning. The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office also plans to fly an unmanned aerial drone over the area this afternoon.

The slide area is some two and half miles to three miles long, and is a half-mile or more wide. The mud and debris at the bottom of the slide is some 20 to 30 feet deep, Hilkey said.

Check back for updates as they become available, and read the full story in the Tuesday edition of the Daily Sentinel.


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