Clean-up crews began working Thursday to clean up the area. (Brieanna Charlebois/Morning Star)

B.C. woman launched from pool by force of mudslide

“We were so lucky. I’m alive — it’s the hand of God.”

When Val Miller and Patricia Burroughs decided to spend the afternoon lounging by the pool on Tuesday, they had no idea things were about to get deadly.

Burroughs was in the deep end of the pool at home at the Vernon Mandalay Condos when she heard a loud noise and described it as a loud cracking sound. She recalls glancing at Miller in confusion before locating the sound.

“It all happened literally within seconds,” said Burroughs, recalling how they narrowly escaped with their lives when the mudslide began. “We were so lucky. I’m alive — it’s the hand of God.”

Looking up the hillside, she saw mud and trees hurtling down toward them. Instinctually, she swam as fast as she could to the shallow end in an attempt to get out of the water and away from the trees and rocks that were headed in her direction. Despite her best efforts she wasn’t quick enough and felt debris falling onto her head. She said she only had one option: to duck below the surface of the water and hope that she wasn’t crushed.

Meanwhile, Miller — who had just climbed out of the water and was sitting poolside — couldn’t get out of the way quick enough. She covered her head and ducked just in time to avoid the falling fence and tree that came her way. The bordering fence came down with a falling tree, just missing her, but landed in a way that had her lodged behind it, trapped.

Burroughs felt she was lucky.

When the same tree that narrowly missed Miller and landed in the pool, Patricia was huddled only a few feet away. The force of the tree landing on the water actually launched her out of the pool.

“Val doesn’t know how she did it but she crouched down by the wall and avoided being hit somehow. If she hadn’t that tree was in line with her,” said Burroughs. “When it landed, somehow it launched me out like a beached whale and I was on the deck by the hot tub.”

Related: Vernon man recounts intense rescue of couple caught in mudslide

Related: Update expected following mudslide

Patricia’s husband, Patrick Burroughs, was working out in the fitness centre next to the pool and witnessed the mudslide in horror.

“I can’t believe the force of what I saw,” he said. “It was just like out of a movie. The trees had already landed so I just saw all the dirt and sand but when I ran out of the gym, there were four inches of water coming across the deck here from the pool so I went running to find them and didn’t know what to expect.”

He said he feared the worst and still can’t believe the two women got out unscathed. When he got outside, the worst seemed to be over. His wife had already been launched out of the pool but Miller was still stuck behind the fallen fence. He ran over to quickly help her out in case the mudslide wasn’t over. He was able to free her and they ran to safety.

A few minutes prior, the Burroughs said there were about 10 more people in the pool area. If they were still on the scene when the mudslide took place, they are both sure that many would have been killed on impact — that they wouldn’t have been able to get out of the way quick enough and would have been launched against the building.

“When the firefighters showed up I told them that they would have had multiple casualties if it was 10 minutes earlier. There was no way somebody would run from that and outrun it,” said Patrick Burroughs. “There was just a bang and it would have been devastating. It would have been just horrific.”

First responders arrived on the scene immediately and both Patricia and Miller were deemed healthy in hospital, escaping with nothing but a few bruises and an unbelievable story to tell.

Related: Couple survives being buried in mudslide on B.C. highway

Related: Highway 33 open, mudslide cleared

Related: Summerland mudslide threatens homes

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Several trees were launched down the hillside at the Mandalay Condos in Vernon. (Brieanna Charlebois/Morning Star)

The fence alongside the pool area was pushed away when a tree came hurtling towards the Mandalay Condos on Tuesday. (Brieanna Charlebois/Morning Star)

The mud pushed several rocks through the courtyard towards the building. (Brieanna Charlebois/Morning Star)

Crews still have a lot of work ahead of them to restore the courtyard. (Brieanna Charlebois/Morning Star)

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