Body of Mother Found After California Mudslide, Death Toll Rises
California authorities said that they had found the body of a woman that went missing amid the catastrophic mudslides.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s office identified the woman as Faviola Benitez Calderon, 28, of Montecito.
The remains were found around 10 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 20, after a Human Remains Detection dog team discovered the body on the 100 block of Santo Tomas Lane, a statement from the office said.
According to the statement, this latest update puts the total number of confirmed deaths at 21.
Two people are still currently missing: 2-year-old Lydia Sutthithepa and 17-year-old Jack Cantin.
The Benitez family was already mourning the loss of the mother’s 10-year-old son Jonathan Benitez and his cousin, 3-year-old Kailly Benitez, as well as Kailly’s mother, 27-year-old Marilyn Ramos. They were all killed in the mudslides.
“The Sheriff’s Office wants to express our deepest condolences to the Benitez family,” the sheriff’s office said in the statement.
According to a GoFundMe page, the family’s husband and youngest son were rescued and taken to the hospital in critical condition.
The page was set up to help with hospital bills and living expenses. As of Jan. 21, it had already gained over $40,986 of the $50,000 goal in donations.
“The family is bereft and unable to work with the overwhelming loss. I’m reaching out to see if there is anyone out there able to help them with their massive hospital bills and living expenses to get them through this devastating time,” the campaign page stated.
The mudslide was caused by a heavy storm that brought rainfall to the Montecito region, which had been severely burned by the vast Thomas fire. The mudslides hit the area on Jan. 9, officials said, according to NBC News.
The fire burned more than 281,000 acres and destroyed more than 1,000 acres in the Santa Barbara and Ventura counties since it first started on Dec. 4.
Officials said the fire was only fully contained last week.