UPDATE Monday June 4 12:05pm – The investigation has concluded and Sheriff Hagaman has released the details. More information at this link.
UPDATE Friday June 1, 2018 4:13pm – Sheriff Hagaman has released the names of the deceased. He says the family has been notified with several having to travel from out of state.
The victims are: Ms. Audri Gordon Lanford, age 66 and, Mr. James Gordon Lanford, age 68.
The Church of the Master Angels posted a remembrance of the couple on the church’s Facebook page.
The investigation to the cause of a landslide into a home killing two people “will be slow”, according to Sheriff Len Hagaman.
The slide occurred on Pine Ridge Drive in the Heavenly Mountain Community around 5:00 pm on Wednesday.
Sheriff Hagaman tells WataugaOnline.com, “This investigation will be slow, because of the dangerous conditions, weather, and the rather large debris plume.”
Many agencies are involved as officials look for answers. Sheriff Hagaman says that it is a joint investigation and involves: Watauga County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Unit and the WCSO Security and Patrol Deputies Unit, the Watauga County Fire Marshal’s Office – Emergency Management – 911 Center, the Office of (NC) State Fire Marshal, the Boone Fire Department and the Boone Police Department, Appalachian State University Emergency Management Office, Appalachian State University Police and their Drone Specialist (Detective), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; and the Heavenly Mountain Security Team.
Sheriff Hagaman also says that, “All units involved are keeping a watch on soil stabilization, the potential of more ground saturation, and monitoring of the slide area itself and the safety for the nearby neighbors, and the safety of the first responders and investigators on scene.”
The names of the victims have not been released as of 12:45 pm on Friday. The Sheriff says that before the names are released, “We want to ensure all family members are notified and guidance from Medical Examiner.”
The Sheriff also wanted to note that, “We are also thankful for the cooperation of the County Manager’s Office and the Watauga County Commissioners.”