PALMDALE (CNS) — A man who was found dead inside a vehicle that was inundated by mud during the storm that slammed the Antelope Valley last week was identified as a Palmdale resident, while local officials insisted they responded appropriately to witness reports of a vehicle being swept away by the mudslide.
The body of 49-year-old Robert Michael Rasmussen was found around 12:50 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 20, inside a minivan that was buried in a culvert in the 41800 block of Karen Drive in Quartz Hill. Rasmussen’s body was found when crews dug the vehicle out.
Sheriff’s officials said Tuesday the minivan was spotted by a public works employee trying to clear the basin. Residents insisted, however, that they have been pushing authorities to search the area since the Oct. 16 storm, saying they had seen a vehicle get swept away during the driving rainstorm that slammed the northern reaches of Los Angeles County and sent lava-like flows of mud through area streets.
One resident told a local television station she called 911 on Oct. 16 to report a vehicle caught in a debris flow and then disappearing. She said she told a dispatcher the vehicle floated for about five minutes, then sank into the debris flow.
Palmdale City Manager James Purtee said authorities responded to the report, but could not find the vehicle. He said search crews were using 3-foot-long metal poles to probe the mud for any signs of a buried vehicle, but Rasmussen’s minivan was buried by about six feet of mud.
Search crews “did the best they could do under these emergency conditions,” he said.
Relatives said Rasmussen was house-sitting in Palmdale for his parents, who were visiting Israel.
Rasmussen’s mother, Virginia Driscoll, and 24-year-old son visited the scene.
“It must have happened so quick,” Driscoll said. She fought back tears as she remembered her son.
“Everybody has a certain amount of time here, and apparently this was his time to go,” Driscoll said. “I’ll miss him very much.”