Grieving father builds deck to remember landslide victim


August 31, 2023

Nakeshia Diop

Randy Simmons on the Beach Road platform he built to remember his son who died in the 2020 landslide.

Looking at Mount Riley, the scar left behind by the December 2020 landslide is still easy to see. The streak of brown running down the mountain tells of the loss of two residents, Jenae Larson and David Simmons, and destruction of the home where they lived.

As the years have gone by, foliage has started to sprout from the area, but the land has remained vacant. Recently one man has been quietly building a small wooden platform on the side of Beach Road.

The man is Randy Simmons, David Simmons' father. He comes to Haines from Chico, California a couple times a year to remember his son. "It's like my second hometown." he said.

Simmons most recently came to Haines on Aug. 23, and since then he has been working on building a memorial for his son. On Beach Road, where David's house once stood, now stands an observation deck that overlooks Portage Cove and the Halutu Ridge.

Simmons said he spoke with his son on the phone an hour before the slide. "He was working on his computer looking out the window toward Full Moon Cove," said Simmons. Now, Simmons is able to stand at the same spot and take in the beauty of the view while paying respect to his departed loved one.

"If you knew David, you are welcome to drop by to talk to him and appreciate the view offered by this site," said Simmons. However, since the land is his private property, he said the deck will eventually be roped off with limited access to prevent tourists from camping out on the memorial site.

Roger Schnabel and other neighbors and people who knew David chipped in to help Simmons. Schnabel helped excavate the pad and built an access ramp to the deck. He said he knew David through his wife Nancy, when David asked to borrow a couple of their rifles to go hunting.

"I can't imagine what Randy and his family are going through, one can't help but be compassionate," said Schnabel.

David Simmons and Jeanae Larson also have a memorial table with benches on Picture Point, and Haines Little League is planning on dedicating and renaming its field to David Simmons Memorial Little League Field.


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