California mudslide victims are ‘leaving a void’ behind
Montecito, Calif. – One of the victims of Southern California’s deadly mudslides had just enough time to shout to his partner to grab onto something and try to save himself as both were swept out of their home. The man died but his partner survived with only minor injuries.
Theirs is just one story of those who perished and those who managed with inexplicable good fortune to survive the slides in the wealthy enclave of Montecito that killed at least 17 people.
Other victims included a father who died while his daughter survived and a man who perished hours after celebrating his 89th birthday.
Here are some of those stories.
■Peter Fleurat was at home with his partner of 17 years during Tuesday’s violent storm when the couple felt the floor beneath them shake and roll.
Moments later, a wall of mud burst through their walls and swept him and Ralph “Lalo” Barajas away.
“The last thing Peter yelled out to me was, ‘Lalo, grab onto some wood and don’t let go,’” Barajas told CBS News. “That was the last I heard of him.”
Barajas was rescued, treated for cuts, bruises and a sprained neck and released from a Santa Barbara hospital. He searched for his partner until he got the news that he had died.
■Jim and Alice Mitchell had been married for more than 50 years and had just celebrated Jim’s 89th birthday when they were swept away along with their dog Gigi.
Jim, who worked in labor relations, and Alice, a schoolteacher, had moved to Montecito in 1995 after raising their two children in Southern California’s Orange County.
“They’re an adorable couple, and they were in love with their house,” their daughter, Kelly Weimer, said Wednesday before learning they had died.
She last spoke to them Monday when she called to wish her father a happy birthday.
The couple had planned to stay at home the night of the storm and have a quiet dinner. Their grandson had taken them out to celebrate the day before.
■Rebecca Riskin was the picture of success and health before she was killed.
Her firm, Riskin Partners, credited the former ballerina with having closed more than $2 billion in high-end real estate sales since she founded company in the early 1990s.
“She’s leaving a huge void. She was exceptional,” said Gina Conte, who described the 61-year-old Riskin as her best friend, mentor and confidante.
Riskin was swept away after a mudslide tore through her living room, Conte said, adding that her husband survived because he was in bed in a part of the house that stayed intact. Her body was found Wednesday near a highway.
■Lauren Cantin, 14, became the face of survival when rescuers pulled the mud-covered girl from her flattened home earlier this week. Authorities said her 49-year-old father, David, died and her 16-year-old brother, Jack, is missing.
NeoTract, a maker of devices used in the medical field of urology, launched a fundraising page Wednesday, asking for financial support for the family of Cantin’s mother, Kim, a marketing executive for the company.
In two days it more than tripled its goal of $20,000.
It took firefighters hours to dig Lauren out of the mud that destroyed her home.
“I thought I was dead for a minute,” she told them before an ambulance took her away.
■The hammering rain was terrifying enough, but when David Weinert saw the house across the street erupt in flames fueled by a severed gas line, he knew it was time to abandon his Montecito home.
“Load up the car, get the dogs, we’re out of here,” the 58-year-old shopping center developer says he told his wife.
Unfortunately, there was no place to go. A police officer told him mudslides had already blocked all the roads out of town.
After driving for a few minutes, he realized the officer was right and went home. There he saw mudslides enveloping his street.
“The winds were just crazy. Trees were cracking. It was scary all right,” he said Thursday.
Weinert’s house was somehow spared.
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