By Larry Persily
Wrangell Sentinel 

State releases names of landslide dead and missing

 

November 22, 2023



State officials today released the names of the three people killed and three others still missing from the Monday night landslide at 11-Mile Zimovia Highway.

Searchers have found the bodies of Timothy Heller, 44, his wife, Beth Heller, 36, and their daughter, Mara, 16.

Mara was a high school junior. Searchers found her body on Monday night. Crews found Timothy and Beth Heller on Tuesday.

As of Friday morning, searchers had not found Derek Heller, 12, Kara Heller, 11, or Otto Florschutz, 65.

Derek was in sixth grade; Kara in fifth grade.

“After three separate active search efforts, including aerial searching with drones, helicopters and planes; ground teams with scent-detection dogs and trained professionals; and water-based searching with dog teams and sonar; search teams have reached all areas accessible without the use of heavy machinery,” the Alaska Department of Public Safety reported Thursday.

“Efforts have begun to methodically start clearing the roadway as well as looking for the three missing people who may be buried in the slide area,” the department said in a prepared statement. “If new evidence or information suggests that any missing people may be in a specific area in the slide zone, the Alaska State Troopers may restart the active search focused on that new area.”

Though state agencies and others have ended the active search for survivors, “it remains a priority of the state of Alaska and Alaska State Troopers to locate the three missing Alaskans so that we can bring closure to their families and the community,” Public Safety officials said in the statement.

The bodies of the three people recovered from the slide area were sent to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Anchorage for autopsy.

The 450-foot-wide slide hit three homes, including the Florschutz and Heller residences. A third home was unoccupied at the time.

The Hellers owned and operated Heller High Water, a contracting business, working on docks, barge landings and other marine facilities.

The company has been active throughout Southeast, making repairs to the city-owned barge landing ramp in Wrangell in 2021 and pulling out rusted steel pilings in 2022 at the site of the former 6-Mile sawmill.

Beth Heller served on the school board 2019-2020 after several years on the school district's parent advisory committee.

This past spring, Derek Heller played the Tin Man in the elementary school production of “The Wizard of Oz.”

Kara took first place in this year’s Fourth of July Crazy Crafts race, teaming up with Violet Allen for the winning entry in the 17-year-old and under category.

Otto Florschutz was among the 48 candidates who ran in the special election primary in June 2022 to fill the seat of the late U.S. Rep. Don Young. “My chances are between slim and none,” he said of his candidacy last year, explaining that he wanted to give voters the option of a solidly pro-life candidate.

He was a commercial fisherman and had been elected three times to the Wrangell Port Commission. He also had served on the local Fish and Game Advisory Committee.

 

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