Friend, brother among those who find Oso victim



Posted on March 27, 2014 at 8:04 AM

Updated Thursday, Mar 27 at 5:14 PM

The story starts on Saturday morning for Rhonda Cook when up the road from her house she heard sirens and got word that the mountain had come crashing down.

"It was just sheer panic and the look on people's faces, they couldn't believe it," Cook said. "And at that point in time we didn't know the magnitude of it."

She also didn't know that her childhood friend Summer Raffo, who shared a love of horses, was driving by at the time and was buried.

"Her mom, she called me and she was crying and said Summer is stuck in the mud," said Cook. "And I said, at that point in time, I promised her we would do everything we could to make sure we got her out of the mud."

Summer's brother Dayn Brunner also made that his mission. He, Cook and others dug through the debris day after day.

"We were locating bodies. We located three bodies," said Cook.

But it was Wednesday, when someone spotted blue. Cook said anyone who knows Summer knows she drove a blue Subaru.

"They weren't going to give up until they could find out if someone was still in the car," she said. "They found her."

Cook and Brunner were able to stall the recovery helicopter long enough to call other family members so she and three of Summer's brothers could be the ones to pull her free from the driver's seat.

"It breaks your heart, but you are also relieved," said Cook. "She is no longer in the mud."

After a moment together the helicopter pilot took off and the brothers said goodbye to their sister.

"That was what they needed," Cook said. "They needed to be the ones to do that."

Life stopped for everyone that morning. But now Cook can't stop digging for the others who are missing because she'll tell you, up here that's what they do.

"You keep stuffing your feelings down and saying you are going to deal with it later, no matter what you know," she said. "We've got a job to do."

Cook isn't the only one who decided to stay and continue searching. Summer's brother Brunner is going back tomorrow.