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Archive for Sunday, December 28, 2003

Mudslide victim died while helping another camper

Wellington resident remembered as never meeting a stranger

December 28, 2003

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— A Wellington man who died in a mudslide at a southern California campground was apparently helping another camper when the river of rocks and mud roared down a hillside, relatives said Saturday.

Carol E. Nuss, 57, had recently begun work as a catastrophe insurance adjuster and had traveled to California about a month ago with his wife, Bev, to handle claims arising from this fall's disastrous wildfires.

Thursday afternoon, Bev Nuss was in the couple's recreational vehicle at a KOA campground in the San Bernardino County town of Devore, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles, when mud several feet thick flowed down a deforested hillside and smashed across the campground.

Relatives said Bev Nuss felt the RV moving and then lodge against a tree, probably saving her life. The couple's two dogs also were in the RV. Family in Kansas learned on Christmas Day that Bev Nuss had been rescued but that Carol Nuss was missing. Crews recovered his body Friday.

Two of the couple's children and an aunt traveled to California to be with Bev Nuss, who was not seriously injured.

The campground's manager also died in the mudslide, and at least eight people died in a separate mudslide at a campground about five miles away. Rescue workers continued searching Saturday for seven people still missing.

Kirk Nuss, 35, of Wichita, said his sister was talking to his mother on the phone when the mudslides occurred. When Kirk talked to his mother later, she was unable to provide many details.

"Mom says it happened so quick she didn't know what happened," Kirk Nuss said.

But other relatives said that from their knowledge of Carol Nuss, it would have been just like him to help campers that day.

"Knowing my brother, he liked to do for everybody," said his brother Sid Nuss, 45, of Wellington. "He was quite a character. He's quite a guy."

Sid Nuss said his brother, the third of six children, never met a stranger.

"If he didn't know someone, he got to know them real quick," Sid Nuss said. "There was nobody he wouldn't talk to."

A sister, Sarah Oldridge, of Wellington, gave a similar assessment. "Everywhere he went he was the PR person."

Sid Nuss said his brother had spent most of his adult life running a heating-and-cooling business in Wellington, which had evolved from an appliance repair business. But business had slowed in recent years, and Carol Nuss had injured an ankle when he fell through a ceiling while on the job.

He then trained in Texas to become an insurance adjuster, Sid Nuss said.

"They liked to travel quite a bit," Sid Nuss said of his brother and sister-in-law. "That was probably right down his alley, being around people. I've never seen anyone he didn't like to talk to."

Carol Nuss made his first trip in his new line of work in September, traveling to the East Coast to assess damage from Hurricane Isabel, Sid Nuss said. The job in California, where the couple had been for about a month, was only his second.

Funeral arrangements were pending Saturday at Frank Funeral Home in Wellington.

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