Alaska News

2 people remain missing in Wrangell landslide as confirmed deaths rise to 4

Four people are now confirmed dead and two remained missing Sunday, days after a massive landslide in Wrangell on Monday destroyed three homes and left behind a broad field of debris that crews continue to work on clearing to restore road access to dozens of homes.

The body of Kara Heller, 11, was recovered from the debris Saturday evening after an indication made by a scent detection K-9 and the use of heavy equipment, Alaska State Troopers said in an update Sunday. Troopers said that the child’s next of kin have been notified, along with the State Medical Examiner Office.

The landslide killed three other members of the Heller family, including parents Timothy Heller, 44, and Beth Heller, 36, along with Mara Heller, 16, whose bodies were found earlier in the week, according to troopers. The Hellers ran a construction company called Heller High Water, and the family was at home Monday night when the landslide swept down a slope in the Southeast Alaska community and buried the Zimovia Highway.

Two people remain missing: Derek Heller, 12, and Otto Florschutz, 65, a neighbor of the Heller family who worked as a commercial fisherman. Florschutz’s wife survived the landslide and was in good condition while receiving medical care, troopers have said.

“A scent detection K-9 team remains on standby and will resume searching if new information or evidence leads to a specific search area,” troopers said Sunday.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities said that crews were able to clear “a significant amount of material from the roadbed.” As of 8 a.m. Sunday, they had about 200 feet left to clear, the transportation department said; authorities have estimated that the debris field is about 450 feet wide.

Asphalt damage on the Zimovia Highway appeared to be limited to the northbound lane, with pavement intact on the majority of the roadway, the transportation department said.


Alaska DOT&PF Situation Report Wrangell, Alaska 10 a.m. Nov. 26, 2023 Road Update: Yesterday, Saturday, Nov. 25, the...

Posted by Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities on Sunday, November 26, 2023