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New evidence emerges on condition of Logan canal

Posted - Jul. 13, 2009 at 10:08 p.m.



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LOGAN -- Crews spent most of the day Monday working to find a mother and her two children in Logan. Authorities think they were trapped inside a home wiped out by a rush of mud and water after a canal gave way Saturday.

The crews worked until dark but were unable to find the bodies of Jacqueline Leavey, her 13-year-old son Victor Alanis and her 12-year-old daughter Abbey Alanis.

Theories on what caused the landslide

It's unclear what caused the landslide. The director of Logan Public Works told KSL News the canal that's owned by Logan Northern Irrigation Company was inspected two weeks ago and appeared fine.

New evidence emerges on condition of Logan canal

But Monday night a man who lives close to the canal took pictures that he says proves otherwise. He says the concrete is cracked and that there are huge holes in the canal.

"I've walked along there and seen that there are holes along the bottom of the canal. And springs adjacent to our place dried up when the canal broke, so the springs are generated by, perhaps, water seeping through the canal," said Logan resident Tyler Pitcher.

A geologist we talked to earlier with the Utah Geological Survey has been investigating the landslide since Saturday. He also told us it's possible there was some water leaking from the canal making the ground unstable.

"It was a sequence landslide event. Photographs of the eyewitnesses suggest that originally there was a landslide in the lower slope, between the house and the canal," said senior geologist Francis Ashland.

New evidence emerges on condition of Logan canal

He says they don't know why that lower landslide may have happened, but there may have been elevated water levels in the area.

Ashland said, "If you look at the canal, it's a concrete-lined canal with seams. There are some damage zones along both the east and west of the landslide (in the canal), so it's possible some water was leaking through the lining of the canal either at the seams or through the cracks."

He added, "It's possible the canal contributed to the water in the lower bluff," which is where Ashland says the original slide occurred.

Search for three missing people proves tedious

Meanwhile, crews had to make sure the hillside is secure and had to get rid of a lot of debris before they could actually start looking for the three bodies. It's a slow process because of unstable ground, debris, and sliding rocks, but authorities are dedicated and say they will continue until they are able to reach them.

So far, crews have excavated the back line of the house for over half of the width of the house. The next step is to start digging by hand.

New evidence emerges on condition of Logan canal

Logan Police Capt. Jeff Curtis said, "You're basically down there with a 5-gallon bucket with your hands pushing the mud and stuff into those buckets, emptying the buckets outside the house area and then we'll use equipment to remove that soil and get it out of the area."

He added, "We really don't know how long it's going to go. It will obviously continue until we reach those people."

Family members tell authorities they're certain that Leavey and her two children were inside the home when the landslide separated the upper portion of the home from the lower.

There are still 18 people evacuated from this Logan neighborhood known as "The Island" near Utah State University.

It appears it will stay that way for a little longer.

Clean up effort of course still underway throughout this neighborhood.

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Story compiled with contributions from Courtney Orton , Shara Park, Andrew Adams and Ben Winslow.

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