SEATTLE — James and Didi Fritts survived after their two-story home in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood partially collapsed on them under a landslide and slid off its foundation Friday afternoon
However, their two dogs, Lily and Sammy, did not survive.
James and Didi shared their survival story Tuesday near where they lost their house, explaining how close they were to being crushed after the second story of their home caved in with them inside.
“It was a loud roar, and the whole thing came down on us,” Didi explained.
The Seattle Fire Department confirmed that afternoon that a slide had originated on the hill behind the house, located at 2400 Perkins Lane W, and came down on the home.
“My mouth and throat were covered, filled with dust. I didn’t know where I was, and I thought he was dead, and I was screaming for him, screaming, and then I heard him say he was alive. He was alive,” Didi recalled.
She said she was heading for the front door of the house when the slide hit and the second story collapsed. She was pinned beneath debris and dirt, while their refrigerator fell on James’ legs, making it impossible for him to move.
Remembering their kitchen had fallen on them and fighting to get out from under the rubble, Didi said, “I got really mad. I got really angry, and [thought] ‘I'm not going to die here.’ You know how you hear about people getting that superhuman strength? Well, I got it.”
She said she was able to lift and crawl her way out of the home, talking to James as she made her way to safety.
Meanwhile, James said he had to wait for the firefighters to rescue him, their dog Lily crushed to death just inches away from him.
A propane tank on the backside of the lot caught fire, which threatened to spread to the house.
“I was just waiting for them to explode and kill me,” James said.
Firefighters were able to douse the flames in water and eventually extinguish the fire after it reignited multiple times.
James said he waited 45 minutes, listening to their neighbor yelling for help and screaming himself, “Help me. Help me.”
Firefighters were able to pull James from the rubble, using the jaws of life to get him out from under the refrigerator. He gave a thumbs up to tell everyone he was OK as they loaded him into an ambulance.
“I just want to say thank you to the Seattle Fire Department and the EMTs and my neighbors and all the amazing people,” James said. “We are miracles, and every day is a gift. So, pay it forward and be of service.”
The couple said that they did not have landslide insurance on their home because they could not afford it, saying it was more than their mortgage. They set up a GoFundMe for anyone who would like to help with expenses.
The house is considered no longer fit to be lived in after being red-tagged by the city’s Department of Construction and Inspections. The Fritts’ home was the only one structurally damaged in the slide, but an inspector recommended those living nearby to monitor the hillside and contact a private geotechnical engineer.