Rescue workers on Thursday searched for eight people missing after mudslides that ripped through a coastal Southern California community, as the identities of some of the 17 who died in Tuesday’s disaster began trickling out.
Families and friends of the people who died in the mudslides began to identify those lost.
The dead included Josie Gower, who died when she was swept away in the mudslides, her daughter-in-law Sarah Gower confirmed in a Facebook post. The 69-year-old woman’s body was found that night, near a highway hit by the slide.
“I told her to stay on the second floor, but she went downstairs and opened the door and just got swept away,” her son, Hayden Gower, told NBC station KSBY.
“I should have just told her to leave. You just don’t even think that this is possible,” he said.
Another fatality was Roy Rohter, 84, founder of the St. Augustine Academy Roman Catholic school, who died when the slide swept him from his home in Montecito, in the mud’s path, according to school officials and local news media..
Alice Mitchell, 79, Montecito.
Alice Mitchell, pictured second from right, stayed home to celebrate her husband’s 89th birthday on the night of the storm, the couple’s daughter said. The house on Hot Springs Road was washed away by raging floods. Mitchell’s body was found down the road, on a different street.
James Mitchell, 89, Montecito
James Mitchell and his wife, Alice, chose not to evacuate their Montecito home when voluntary evacuations were issued. When a relative searching for the couple went to the sheriff’s office for information, “they told her there was no 319 Hot Springs Road anymore,” their daughter said. The couple’s bodies were found Tuesday on Olive Mill Road. Their dog is still missing.
Rebecca Riskin, 61, Montecito
Rebecca Riskin, a real estate agent and founder of Riskin Partners, was also killed in the mudslides in Montecito, the company confirmed. Riskin Partners described its founder as “an exceptional woman” who lived her life with “strength, grace and elegance.” Riskin is survived by her husband and two children.
Peter Fleurat, 73, Montecito
Peter Fleurat, 73, of Montecito. A long-time friend told KSBY-TV that Fleurat died after he and his partner tried to escape the rising floodwaters in their Montecito home.
— StateScoop (@State_Scoop) January 11, 2018
The sheer force of the mudslides caused water pipes to erupt and physically remove fire hydrants in its path, leading Santa Barbara County Public Health Department officials to issue specific warnings for restaurantsto stop serving until further notice. A general boil-water notice was issued Tuesday, encouraging residents to boil water for at least 60 seconds prior to washing dishes, brushing teeth, preparing food, or washing hands, according to the health department’s deputy director, Susan Klein-Rothschild. Not doing so could result in stomach or intestinal illness.
According to the health department, restaurants are not allowed to handle foods in any manner, and only sell unopened, prepackaged food until the boil-water notice is rescinded. Because the mudslides damaged the local water supply infrastructure, officials are unable to determine when that will be. Officials are also asking people to stay out of the ocean water for the same safety concerns. The same warnings have not been issued for neighboring cities like Santa Barbara and Carpinteria, and only affect neighborhoods in the Montecito Water District.
It was also reported children are among the dead.