Final Sitka landslide victim recovered

Sitka building official William Stortz. (KCAW file photo)
Sitka building official William Stortz. (KCAW file photo)

Search crews have recovered the final victim of the Aug. 18 Sitka landslide. The body of 62-year-old William Stortz was found Tuesday afternoon.

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Heavy equipment operators had been working at several locations identified by search dogs. A road was built up to the observation area at the south end of the slide, and a plywood boardwalk installed to improve the mobility of search crews on the ground. Searchers were under pressure to take advantage of two days of good weather before more rain arrives Thursday.

Now that all the victims have been found, city officials estimate at least another 30 days of work to clear Kramer Avenue.

Municipal administrator Mark Gorman was a longtime friend of William Stortz, who served as Sitka’s building official since 2011. In a press release, Gorman writes “William was hard-working, intelligent and a very kind man. Our family knew him and he was well-respected throughout Sitka.”

Stortz died in the Aug. 18 slide along with brothers Elmer and Ulises Diaz, who were painting a new house in the Kramer subdivision.

Catholic services for the Diaz brothers have been scheduled for 6 p.m. this Friday at Grace Harbor Church, which served as the unofficial headquarters of the recovery operation. A memorial for William Stortz will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday in the Odess Theater on the Sitka Fine Arts Campus.

Robert Woolsey is the news director at KCAW in Sitka.

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