(MONTECITO, Calif.) — A young father became the latest known victim of the California mudslides as his body was found after those of two other members of his family, his 6-year-old son and his father-in-law. The man’s 2-year-old daughter is meanwhile still missing.
The father, Pinit “Oom” Sutthithepa, 30, was missing until Saturday afternoon when recovery teams discovered his body, bringing the death toll to 20 from the devastating mudslide in the affluent enclave of Montecito north of Los Angeles.
Among the 20 victims are also Sutthithepa’s 6-year-old son, Peerawat, and his 79-year-old father-in-law, Richard Loring Taylor, according to a Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s summary report.
His 2-year-old daughter, Lydia, meanwhile remains among four people still missing, an update from the county confirmed.
A candlelight vigil for all of the victims drew thousands Sunday night in Montecito.
“Tonight, we need to mourn,” Santa Barbara County Supervisor Das Williams said. “It is breathtakingly horrible. Our community is going through something it has never gone through.”
The mudslides occurred during a rainstorm Jan. 9 when flash-flood conditions overwhelmed soil on hills that had been charred by weeks of wildfires.
“Just overwhelming, Montecito resident Debbie Marman told ABC News station KABC-TV during Sunday’s vigil. “The stories just bring tears to my eyes – to think what these people have lost within a moment’s time, and to be searching – it’s just horrible.”
Pinit, known as “Peanut” to friends, immigrated to the U.S. from Thailand, according to a family friend, KABC-TV reported. He initially came by himself, sending money back to his wife and two children before they were able to immigrate as well by 2016.
The National Weather Service has forecast that early next week the region could get another rainstorm and heavy snowfall.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m scared of Mother Nature right now,” Montecito Mayor Cathy Murillo said at the vigil.
Emergency personnel in the area are going door to door to determine if standing homes are safe and to clear roads and mud-choked storm drains and basins.
Meantime, commuting any distance by car remains problematic.
The 101 Freeway, locally known as the Ventura Freeway, the central thruway between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, is shut down with “no estimate” of when it will reopen as there are “ongoing rescue/recovery & extensive clean-up/repairs,” CalTran notified the public in a tweet.
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