Those who helped soldier search mudslide for his relatives shocked at suicide

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

OSO, Wash. — Two women who helped a Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier search the Oso mudslide for the bodies of his missing aunt and uncle said Thursday they were shocked and saddened to learn that the 20-year-old committed suicide afterward.

jblm soldier suicide

Army Spc. Christopher Dombroski, 20, of Wasilla, Alaska, who was based at JBLM, was a nephew of Steve Harris, 52, and Theresa Harris, 53, of Arlington, who were listed among the missing in the March 22 mudslide in Snohomish County. He committed suicide earlier this week.

“I noticed that he was crying” at the debris field, said Kayla Norris, who helped search the mudslide with the soldier. “He wasn’t bawling or anything like that, but you could definitely see he was having some emotions.”

Army Spc. Christopher Dombroski, 20, of Wasilla, Alaska, who was based at JBLM, was a nephew of Steve Harris, 52, and Theresa Harris, 53, of Arlington, who were listed among the missing in the March 22 mudslide in Snohomish County.

An Army spokesman at JBLM said Dombroski had taken emergency leave to help search the mudslide site. The bodies of the Harris couple are still missing.

On Sunday, Dombroski told his family he was going out on a day hike in Thurston County. He rode his motorcycle to a trail at the Capitol State Forest and left on foot. Rescuers found his body on Tuesday morning. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head, authorities said.

“When you work in something as traumatic as the slide, you build a relationship with people on a whole different level, a whole different world,” Norris said, adding that she was shocked to hear that Dombroski  had taken his own life.

Norris and Haley Gonzales volunteered their time to look for survivors. They met and quickly bonded with  Dombroski in the middle of the destruction.

“He was such a light in a really dark time,” Norris said.

Norris said Dombroski was extremely grateful to the other volunteers who were searching for his uncle and aunt.

Norris said Dombroski told her that Steve Harris was like a father figure to him and that the two loved spending time together.

She said he told her, “It’s so unfortunate that my aunt and uncle had to pass but it is fortunate that they passed in a place they loved.”

Dombroski, who had served a tour in Afghanistan in 2012, was engaged to be married.

“My heart goes out to his fiancée. I can’t imagine. I can’t imagine for his parents,” Gonzales said.

Psychologists say even one sudden traumatic event can trigger suicidal thoughts especially if there’s a history of depression or post traumatic stress disorder.

“It’s very in the moment, that person is not able to think of other options, they are feeling like this is their only option,” Dr. Jessica Mason said.

Still Norris and Gonzales never saw it coming.

“I’m still shocked because that was the last thing I ever expected,” Norris said.

“If you meet someone, even if it’s just for one day and they make an impact in your life, you should tell them,” Gonzales said.

Dombroski grew up in Alaska. His family attended a memorial service for him Thursday night at JBLM.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


  • Big B.

    R.I.P. Young man… We need to help these veterans quite a bit more than we do now… If you are thinking of suicide PLEASE STOP and get to a church , police station , hospital , or a friends house and get some help….

  • ouroboros14and88

    Those who experienced Viet Nam and the struggle against the red tide came home to discover the leadership of that criminal venture now controls most western governments. Ultimately the service and sacrifice turned out to be for nothing but furthering the hostile take-over of the hearts and minds of our people. Suicide is a very attractive option to those who live in extreme isolation no matter who they are among. Indeed, the occupied west is no place for the fully awakened sentient mind to be. Our only best hope now is to not die with the lie filled heads we were conditioned with in the hands of humanities most successful self created evil. __

  • ouroboros14and88

    Talmudic occult usury. The thousand year old tribe of blood wealthy organized crime that still today remains the "invisible" nation of the black arts. The success of this premier ancient terrorist organization depends of the gullibility of domesticated humanity. Trauma awakens the minds of veterans and others shocked into reality by life's harsh lessons. Many struggle daily to exist in a culture of filthy lies and deceptions taught as "truth" by those they most trusted in their youth. The choice to end the pain if fully understandable.

  • Brother

    Still thinking about you, had a really vivid dream about our Marietta trip growing up then went straight to when you and your friend showed up at my house after Afghan…Wish we could of went to country concert like we planned… Miss you bro