MONTECITO, Calif. — A doctor and his daughter who died in the arms of her brother were among the 18 people killed in devastating mudslides that brought tragedy and sorrow to the idyllic coastal community of Montecito, California.
Other victims included a young mother asleep with her 3-year-old daughter as her 10-year-old nephew slumbered nearby, and a woman and her 89-year-old husband of more than 50 years who celebrated his birthday the day before.
Here are their stories and those of others in a community where victims ranged from captains of industry to the people who manicure their lawns:
Dr. Mark Montgomery and his family returned from a Brazilian vacation only two days before the mudslide that killed him and daughter Caroline came crashing down a hillside into their two-story home.
Montgomery’s wife and oldest daughter had left for a business trip to New York soon after returning home Sunday. He stayed behind with 22-year-old Caroline, who had just graduated from college, and his 20-year-old son, Duffy.
The three were asleep before dawn Tuesday when the mudslide slammed into their home. The 54-year-old physician, sleeping downstairs, was swept away.
His daughter, sleeping upstairs, was engulfed in mud and other debris. As Duffy tried to save her she died in his arms, said Dr. Michael Behrman, a longtime family friend. Her brother suffered a broken shoulder blade and other injuries.
Behrman had been staying in the Montgomery family’s home while they vacationed, his own home having burned down during the devastating wildfire that struck the area last month.
“Having a house burned down and losing all your stuff doesn’t seem like a very big deal now,” he told The Associated Press. “It’s losing Mark and his daughter and the utter devastation of the area that has gone along with that. I, like everybody here, knew several of the other people who died.”
He was especially close to Montgomery, having recruited his fellow orthopedic surgeon to Santa Barbara more than 20 years ago and having mentored Montgomery during his residency.
“He made a huge difference in people’s lives,” Behrman said. “He was an absolutely wonderful guy, who had a kind word for everybody, very friendly, compassionate and wonderful with his patients.”
As word of the physician’s death spread, tributes poured onto social media.
“He fixed my hand after a camping accident in 2012, two weeks before my wedding,” David Iglesias told KSBY. “I cut all the tendons in my fingers. He was able to reattach them. I have full use and feeling in my hand because of Dr. Montgomery.”
Marilyn Ramos was asleep in bed with her 3-year-old daughter, Kaelly Benitez, when the mudslide came crashing through their rental home, carrying both to their deaths.
Also killed was Kaelly’s 10-year-old cousin, Jonathan Benitez, who was asleep nearby.
Marilyn’s husband, Antonio Benitez, was injured, as was his brother, Victor, who is Jonathan’s father. Victor’s 2-year-old son survived, but his wife, Faviola Benitez Calderon, 28, was missing.
The brothers, immigrants from Mexico, owned a gardening and landscaping business in Montecito. Marilyn was a stay-at-home mom.
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Source:: Deseret News – U.S. & World News