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Search for 3 missing in Colorado mudslide abandoned

The mudslide in an almost empty area on Grand Mesa in Colorado was far bigger than the one in Oso, Wash.

By Frances Burns

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo., May 27 (UPI) -- The area buried by a mudslide on a mesa above Grand Junction, Colo., is too unstable to continue the search for three missing men, the Mesa County sheriff said Tuesday.

Sheriff Tom Hilkey said he consulted a range of experts, including geologists and forest rangers, before deciding to abandon the search. He said it appears to be too dangerous to continue.

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The slide Sunday occurred near Collbran, one of two small communities on top of Grand Mesa. It was much bigger than the March mudslide that buried a square mile of Oso, Wash., but occurred on land that has no residents, few buildings and is closed to the public.

The dead men, identified as Clancy Nichols, his son, Danny, and Wes Hawkins, were in the area checking on a report that an irrigation channel was blocked. All three were from old homesteading families.

Collbran held its annual Memorial Day celebration Monday, a march by a small group of veterans. But Town Marshal Adam Appelhanz, who followed the veterans, came to the event directly from searching the slide area driving a patrol car almost totally covered in mud.

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Local residents were stunned by the size of the slide, estimated at 3 miles long, several hundred feet wide and up to 250 feet deep.

"The whole back of Grand Mesa is gone," one told the Grand Junction Sentinel.

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