Oso slide victims’ families speak out against planned river tours of area: ‘It’s disgusting’
OSO, Wash. — Families who lost loved ones in last year’s Oso mudslide are furious at the idea of tourists rafting through the slide zone.
The anger is aimed at a local company that placed ads offering lunch and guided tours down the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River.
Dave Button, the man who runs Pacific NW Float Trips, said he made a mistake by not asking victims’ family members first before coming up with the idea. Button said his plan is on hold for now, but he could still go forward with the idea.
But some of the victim’s family members are livid.
“This is not and never should be a tourist attraction,” said Karen Pszonka. “This is where people died, this is hallowed ground.”
Last March 22, Pszonka lost six members of her family, three generations, when the Oso slide killed 43 people.
Pszonka said she was disgusted by an advertisement she found on Groupon.com that offered $45 per person guided tours on the river through the slide zone.
“To have this show up right now it’s disgusting and very difficult to bear,” she said.
At first Button planned to donate 25% of the proceeds to victims' families, but amid the backlash from grieving family members, he’s now offering 100% of the proceeds if he decides to move forward.
"To me it is like a memorial,” said Button. “I mean we all go to see the memorials for, the Vietnam memorial is one, I was in the Vietnam war, and so there's go to be some way to honor those people who lost their life there,” he said.
Button said he plans to meet with victims' families next week. If they object to his plan, he promised to pull his boats out of the water before reaching the slide zone.
But Pszonka wants Button to cancel his plans all together.
“People can see the slide from (State Route) 530, there’s no reason to get up close,” she said. “I would like to see it (the tour idea) go away.”
Button said he does not need a special permit to raft through the slide zone.
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources said the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River is free and open, something victims' families want to see changed.