9/2/2014

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Whidbey Is. homeowner narrowly escapes massive landslide

Whidbey Is. homeowner narrowly escapes massive landslide
COUPEVILLE, Wash. -- The homeowner who lost everything in Wednesday's massive Whidbey Island landslide says he narrowly escaped death in the mad scramble to get away from the destruction.

John Etheridge's home was the only one destroyed by the slide. The 82-year-old said he woke up to a loud boom around 3 a.m. Wednesday morning.

"When I looked with a light I could see a big gap underneath these concrete slabs," he said.

He could feel his home sliding off its foundation and knew right away the house was going to go. He also knew he had to get out fast if he didn't want to go down with it.

"It's instinct to survive and get out because to stay would be to die, and I wasn't quite ready for it," he said.

Etheridge put on some sweat pants and shoes and grabbed his keys.

"I went to the back door and it was stiff. I turned the lock and I kicked the door open," he said.

He hopped in his truck and threw it in reverse, heading down the only road that could lead him to safety. But Ethreridge didn't get far before realizing the landslide had taken out the entire two-lane road.

"I stopped there and with the headlights on I could see there's no road beyond that," he said. "The power poles were shaking on the way back and I could see the lines were coming down."

He said he backed up as far as he could and called 911. Miraculously, Etheridge survived the harrowing experience, but the same can't be said for his home and his belongings.

As tough as the loss is, Etheridge is just grateful that his instincts led him to safety.

"You're thinking, 'What do I do?' And, automatically, you don't even think about it because it becomes automatic," he said.

Police are now beefing up security in the area to protect the vacant homes. The only people allowed in the area are residents who show proper ID.
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