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Oso landslide survivors: Mother, Baby Duke recall rescue

Amanda Suddarth and her then-newborn son Duke survived the Oso landslide. After a decade of torment, they are hopeful for the future.

OSO, Wash. — After a traumatic event, there are always thoughts and prayers. But survivors always see things differently, and anniversaries come and go.

Ten years after the Oso landslide that killed 43 of her neighbors, Amanda Suddarth still asks the same question every day.

“Am I doing the right thing?” she said. “Am I making my life worth being one that was saved?”

 At 10:37 a.m. on March 22, 2014, her husband Ty left for the hardware store while Amanda and her newborn son Duke scrolled through YouTube on a lazy Saturday morning. Amanda heard a rumble. She looked out her front door just in time to see her neighbor’s chimney hurling toward her in a tidal wave of mud. Everything went black.

She held on for life and rode it out with Duke clutched in her arms. Then the panic, the loneliness and the desperation before first responders pulled the two from the mud. Duke was barely breathing.

Now, the memories are still constant, and so are the injuries.

“I have titanium mesh in my left eye socket. I have three plates in my left arm and a rod down my right leg. And then two plates and my left ankle,” Amanda said cracking a smile. “And I get to wear a brace every day.”

The crushing effects of the landslide and lack of oxygen caused permanent brain damage for Duke, who is now 10 years old.

In the wake of the landslide, the story of Baby Duke became well-known. It was synonymous with survival. But in the decade since the slide, it’s been a struggle.

“It’s been hard. It’s been really hard. Between his surgeries and his TBI (traumatic brain injury), his almost daily seizures,” Amanda said. “I’m thankful and grateful that we are here. But it’s been a lot.”

When talking about Duke, she smiled in his direction. It’s a visual embrace with the same comfort Duke likely felt in his mother’s arms during the landslide.

Duke is always quick to introduce himself.

“My name is Duke. I’m 10 years old. All I can recall is the name of the slide. Oso,” he said. 

A scar on the side of his head is a reminder of the hell he’s gone through. He called it his zig-zag.

“I have some holes in my skull and a left peripheral of the skull’s brain gone,” he said.

“The left peripheral is your eyesight, honey,” Amanda said with a smile, correcting him.

“Oh, yeah then it might be the right side,” Duke replied.

“Everything is just a little delayed,” Amanda said. “Long term is a lot of ‘I don’t knows.'”

Life has been filled with a lot of surgeries, therapy and treatment for Duke. Amanda shared a CAT scan picture that reveals a quarter of Duke’s brain is gone. For a moment, Duke seemed to reflect.

“It’s like I try and run away from it. It’s been like that for years in my head,” he said. “It’s been like, ‘How am I going to get this away from me?'”

The comment prompted tears from his mom.

Now, the Suddarths live in another area of Snohomish County. And since the landslide, Amanda and Ty have had another son. They named him Quinn after the Darrington logger who cut Amanda and Duke out of the mud and pulled them to safety.

“I can’t imagine him with a different name,” Amanda said with a smile. “That was the least I could do to thank somebody for what they did for me.”

Recalling the tragic events of what happened to them is still painful. And when anniversaries come, she thinks about her neighbors on Steelhead Drive who didn’t live to share that story.

“I miss them a lot. And I wonder what kind of milestones they would have and what they’re missing out on,” Amanda said. “It’s all still permanently a part of us.”

She looked down and smiled at Duke. He cracked a smile back. They’re still in this together.

Follow coverage of the Oso landslide 10 years later throughout the week of March 18-22 and tune in to a 30-minute special on KING 5 and KING 5+ on March 22 at 7 p.m. 

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