43 People Still Missing In Montecito, Calif.; Of 17 Dead, Four Include Children


Rescue crews continued to search for survivors amid the mud and wreckage of Montecito’s massive debris field on Thursday, but acknowledged that the window to save lives is rapidly closing.

As of Thursday afternoon, up to 43 people were unaccounted for following Tuesday’s massive mudflow, though officials said that number is highly fluid.012017-sycamore-canyon-debris-rc-1000

Earlier in the day, officials placed the number of missing at eight. They increased that number after authorities combed through social media posts and message boards at evacuation shelters. Others who were found, or identified among the dead, were crossed off.

“It’s a constantly moving number,” said Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown, adding that he expected the death toll to rise.

The mudslide killed at least 17 people and destroyed scores of homes. Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office released the names of the dead, who were all Montecito residents.

They were identified as Jonathan Benitez, 10; Kailly Benitez, 3; Martin Cabrera-Munoz, 48; David Cantin, 49; Sawyer Corey, 12; Peter Fleurat, 73; Josephine Gower, 69; John McManigal, 61; Alice Mitchell, 78; James Mitchell, 89; Mark Montgomery, 54; Caroline Montgomery, 22; Marilyn Ramos, 27; Rebecca Riskin, 61; Roy Rohter, 84; Peerawat Sutthithepn, 6; and Richard Taylor, 67.

The county coroner has listed the cause of death for each victim as “multiple traumatic injuries due to flash flood with mudslides due to recent wildfire.”

Brown also said authorities are expanding mandatory evacuation zones in the area because pedestrians and traffic are hindering rescue and repair operations.

People in the following boundaries were ordered to leave by 6 p.m.: the ocean to the south, Hot Springs Road to the west, the forest to the north, and Ladera Lane and Ortega Ridge Road to the east.

First responders have searched about 75% of the debris field left by a torrent of boulders, detritus and muck, according to Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown.

Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy:  AP
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