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SEATTLE (AP) -- The lights in Amanda Skorjanc's home started to flicker and shake. When she looked outside, she saw a cascade of mud and debris crashing down the hillside and nearby houses "exploding" from its force.
Moments earlier she was watching videos with her infant son, and now she saw a neighbor's chimney barreling toward her door. Skorjanc gripped her son tightly and turned away.
"I held onto that baby like it was the only purpose that I had," she said. "I did not let that baby go for one second."
When it was over, the powerful mudslide had destroyed Skorjanc's entire rural Washington community, killing at least 36 people and destroying dozens of homes.
Skorjanc and her baby were among the few pulled from the rubble alive. On Wednesday, the 25-year-old mother gave her first interview about the March 22 ordeal from Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where she remains hospitalized.
Skorjanc is starting to recover physically from several broken bones and six surgeries, but she and her doctor acknowledged the emotional healing will take a very long time. Certain sounds bring Skorjanc right back to that frightening Saturday morning.
"If the wind blows too hard. If someone is pushing a bed past me, and it rumbles the floor a bit. It brings back the same sight over and over again," Skorjanc told a pool of reporters from The Daily Herald, KOMO-TV and KIRO Radio.
When the earth stopped moving after the mudslide, Skorjanc was trapped in a pocket formed by her damaged couch and pieces of her roof. She had two broken legs and a broken arm.
Skorjanc said she called out to God to save her and her baby and prayed rescuers would arrive quickly and find them.
"I started to hear sirens - the most amazing sound I ever heard," she said.
Skorjanc remembers hearing the voices of several men coming to her aid. They lifted her son from her arms and cut her from the debris.
"I had my eyes closed," Skorjanc remembers. "I didn't want to see what was going on. I was scared and in so much pain."
One of her ankles was crushed and might not recover fully. She also suffered injuries to her face, including an eye socket. Her doctor said she will need to be off her feet for another 10 weeks, then likely will struggle to start walking again.
Skorjanc said she considered the destroyed community of Oso home, although she grew up in Indiana and has lived in Washington for just the past two years. But she has no plans to return to the rural community 55 miles northeast of Seattle, not even for a visit.
She said she struggles with guilt daily, because she has her family - including her partner, Ty Suddarth, the father of her child - and others who lived in Oso don't. Suddarth had left the house to run an errand when the mudslide hit.
Dr. Daphne Beinggessner, a University of Washington orthopedic surgeon, operated on Skorjanc three times and estimated her physical injuries will take a year or more to heal.
She added that the recovery of Skorjanc's son, Duke Suddarth, seems to be really making a difference in the young mother's improvement: "As he's been getting better, she's been getting better."
Skorjanc said she will work hard to get better to be there for her son, who is being treated at Seattle Children's Hospital. She said his injuries included a skull fracture. "He's my motivation."
The rest of her energy will go toward giving back to the community.
"I'm so overwhelmed with the amount of love and support we get every day," Skorjanc said. "We will pay it forward for the rest of our lives."
WINTER PARK, Fla. (AP) -- The man with a long history of arrests whom authorities are seeking in a deadly car crash into a Florida day care center was the driver of the vehicle that fled the scene, the Florida Highway Patrol said early Thursday.
The agency had previously called 26-year-old Robert Alex Corchado a "person of interest" in the Wednesday afternoon crash. On Thursday, spokeswoman Wanda Diaz said in a statement that Corchado - who has been arrested eight times since 2000 - was driving a Dodge Durango that struck a Toyota Solaro convertible, which jumped a curb and smashed into the KinderCare building in the Orlando area. One girl died. Fourteen other people, mostly children, were injured. The convertible's driver wasn't injured.
Local television footage showed small children and infants in cribs being taken outside to the day care's playground. Several of the injured were carried out on stretchers.
Late Wednesday afternoon, parents could be seen waiting to pick up their children, and then clutching them in their arms as they were escorted to their vehicles by authorities.
Authorities said Wednesday that they were searching for Corchado, who they believed was heading to Orlando International Airport in an attempt to flee the area.
A man answered the phone for a number listed to Corchado and hung up when he was asked, "May I speak to Robert Corchado?"
Corchado's most recent arrest, in December, was on a misdemeanor charge of leaving the scene of a crash involving damage, a felony charge of selling narcotics, and felony marijuana possession. He was released on more than $10,000 bond and pleaded not guilty to the charges. His defense attorney in that case, Jack Kaleita, didn't return a phone call or email after business hours.
Department of Corrections records show Corchado has served prison time for trafficking cocaine and extortion.
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs called the crash an "absolute tragedy and disaster."
Diaz said a girl died at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, but she didn't have any more details. One person at the hospital was in critical condition and five others were in serious condition, said spokeswoman Katie Dagenais.
In all, 13 people were hospitalized, including the girl who died from her injuries, and two others were treated at the scene, authorities said. Eleven of the injured were children, said John Mulhall, a spokesman for the Orange County Fire Rescue.
Several of the injured at the KinderCare building in Winter Park were reported to be in "very, very serious condition," Diaz said.
The day care's website says the center provides childcare and learning opportunities for children ages 6 weeks to 12 years old and has been in the community for more than 25 years.
Gov. Rick Scott released a statement saying, "As a grandfather of three young children, I can't imagine losing such a precious life at such a young age. Today's hit-and-run was an act of cowardice, and members of the Florida Highway Patrol are working closely with local law enforcement to bring those who caused this crash to justice."
Police officers who receive crisis intervention training are taught how to recognize when someone with serious mental illness might be having a psychiatric crisis. Considering the overall circumstances, police look for these behaviors in a subject:
- Behavior that doesn't fit the circumstance (example: laughing at a funeral)
- Non-verbal and easily distracted
- Bizarre and disjointed thinking (delusions, hallucinations)
- Normal coping skills are failing or not evident
- Unaware of self; dirty, disheveled, malodorous
- Unaware of surroundings and possible risk to personal safety
Source: Donald Kline, Montgomery County Emergency Service in Pennsylvania