Neighbors reflect on sudden loss following rock slide

ROCKVILLE, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) - A rock slide demolished a southern Utah home killing the couple who lived there. Now neighbors are trying to come to grips with the sudden loss.
ROCKVILLE, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) - It was a scene of utter devastation and tragedy Friday at 368 West Main Street in the small Southern Utah town of Rockville.

At 4:54 Thursday evening, a group of boulders came crashing down from a cliff above the residence, completely destroying the home and crushing its owners, a middle aged couple named Jeff Elsey and Maureen Morris. Their bodies were removed from the scene at 11:30 am Friday.

Next door neighbor Daniel Pettegrew was in the bathtub at his residence at 314 West Main when he heard a loud rumbling Thursday. He got dressed and ran out of his house to see a large cloud of dust. When the dust cleared, he saw a massive boulder sitting on top of the debris that had been Elsey and Morris' cabin.

"I immediately came out to see what had happened to my house because I immediately assumed part of my house had been destroyed but nothing had happened to the house. Then I noticed the neighbors house was completely gone," Pettegrew told ABC 4 News. "It was like a bullseye. It had totally hit the house dead on."

Pettegrew described Elsey and Morris as a hospitable couple.

"They were very friendly. He was always working out in the yard. They'd sit on the patio in the mornings and wave to me and invite me over for wine once in a while. Very very nice neighbors, very kind and friendly. They loved their life here. You could tell they were very happy," Pettegrew said.

Springdale Police Officer Britt Ballard also knew Elsey and Morris. He was the first responder to arrive on then scene Thursday and helped search the rubble for survivors.

"It's sad. I've got a heavy heart," Ballard said. "I knew these people personally. I have to try and do my job but I'm human and it's tough."

When asked about his emotions as he surveyed the scene Pettegrew said, "It's really hard to wrap your brain around this. It's devastating. Everything has been destroyed and obliterated. There's time you're emotional and there's times you don't know what to think. I don't know if I'm going to stay here. It's too fresh."

Both Pettegrew and the other next door neighbor Tracy Dutson said that even though law enforcement officials declared the area safe, they were spending the next few days at friends' homes.

Geologists surveyed the cliff Friday morning. They believe that thawing ice triggered the deadly slide. Rockslides are common in the area, known as the Rockville Bench, but Thursday's incident was the first involving fatalities according to locals.

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