Landslide danger ends search for 3 in Mesa County

COLLBRAN - Three men who disappeared after a massive mudslide near the town of Collbran are still missing as of Tuesday morning.

The Mesa County Sheriff's Department says they suspended their search operations Tuesday.

The deputies are worried that another slide would happen where the previous slide happened, so they suspended their ground search operations.

They will continue to manage air resources to watch the water build-up at the top of the mudslide. They will start to measure the water to see if the water is going anywhere. Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey said the search eventually could resume, but it might not be safe enough to do so until summer.

So far, there have been no signs of 51-year-old Clancy Nichols, his 24-year-old son Danny and 46-year-old Wes Hawkins. All three men were checking irrigation ditches when the slide happened.

The mudslide is massive, measuring about 4-miles long and, in some places, 100-feet deep. Some other people are working to clear the slide away from a fracking site nearby.

"There are also energy industry resources up there, and some of those resources are threatened," Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey said. "Currently, we are working with the energy companies, and they are draining tanks that hold what they condensate or production water. I'm told it's not as hazardous of material as some of the other materials we may be used to, so that's good news, but they have to bring a bulldozer in to grade a road out to try and make it to those tanks to get them drained."

The slide came up to the edge of the energy pad. In the past day, a lot of machinery has been heading up to clear the mud out.

The family of Wesley Hawkins released the following statement:

The family of Wesley Hawkins would like to express their gratitude to the members of the Mesa County Sheriffs's Office, Mesa County Search and Rescue, Salvation Army, Plateau Valley Fire District, CenturyLink and everyone through out the community who have expressed their sympathy, condolences and prayers in this tragic event. We would also like everyone to know who Wesley was. Wesley worked for the Collbran Conservancy District as the District Water Manager for the last 23 years. He was responsible for much of the water that flows through the Plateau Valley area. His responsibility to the community and its safety led him to the area that the slide occurred in. He was concerned for other families and their homes should the water system be compromised. He was performing these duties when the massive slide caught him and the other men. Wesley was a father of five wonderful children, husband of 27 years and a grandfather of a beautiful granddaughter. He was also well respected and admired within his community.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation with The Associated Press)


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