California mudslides kill couple of 50 years, 4 kids

Published on Friday, 12 January 2018 21:41
Written by The Associated Press

MONTECITO, Calif. (AP) - The oldest victim swept away in a California mudslide was Jim Mitchell, who had celebrated his 89th birthday the day before. He died with his wife of more than 50 years, Alice.

The youngest, 3-year-old Kailly Benitez, was one of four children killed.

As their names and those of 14 other victims were released Thursday, crews kept digging through the muck and rubble looking for more people.

“At this moment, we are still looking for live victims,” Santa Barbara fire Capt. Gary Pitney said. But he confessed: “The likelihood is increasing that we’ll be finding bodies, not survivors. You have to start accepting the reality of that.”

The Mitchells were in love with their home in the seaside enclave of Montecito where they moved in 1995, according to their daughter. They also loved their dog, Gigi, who is missing.

The other children killed were 6-year-old Peerawat Sutthithepn, 10-year-old Jonathan Benitez and 12-year-old Sawyer Corey. None of the adult dead shared their last names.

All of the dead were killed by “multiple traumatic injuries due to flash flood with mudslides,” authorities said.

Five people were missing as of early Friday, down from as many as 43 a day earlier, said Amber Anderson, a spokeswoman for Santa Barbara County.

Sheriff Bill Brown gave the larger number Thursday but cautioned that many or most of those people may simply have been unreachable to the family and friends who reported they couldn’t find them.

“We were able to find people,” Anderson said, but added that the number could continue to fluctuate greatly . She said some missing-person reports are quickly cleared but others take time to resolve.

Pitney said many rescues were still happening Wednesday and Thursday, but most if not all were of people who were safe but just wanted to get out of the area.

Posted in New Britain Herald, Nation-World on Friday, 12 January 2018 21:41. Updated: Friday, 12 January 2018 21:44.