A mudslide survivor has shared the harrowing moment that the torrent of mud and debris smashed through his southern Californian home and swept his partner of 20 years to his death.
Peter Fleurat, 73, and his life partner Ralph ‘Lalo’ Barajas were asleep in their bed at 3.30am on Tuesday when water began gushing into their house in Montecito.
A friend of the pair, Eliot Seal, told KSBY how they quickly clambered out onto their bathroom vanity to escape the rising water as it flooded the house.
‘As the house buckled, Peter said ‘Grab onto a tree and hold on tight’, Seal said. ‘It’s so typical of Peter to be thinking of someone else.’
Peter Fleurat, 73, (right) and his life partner Ralph ‘Lalo’ Barajas were asleep in their bed at 3.30am on Tuesday when water began gushing into their house in Montecito
Fleurat (left and right) was swept to his death. His body was found just a few hours later near Olive Mill, at 11am on Tuesday, although his family were not notified until the following day
Moments later, a torrent of mud and water hit the house.
Fleurat was swept to his death. His body was found just a few hours later near Olive Mill, at 11am on Tuesday, although his family were not notified until the following day.
Barajas, the owner of the Rose Cafe on the Mesa, was knocked out and taken to the nearby hospital with cuts and bruises all over his body. He said that all he could remember was ”the world spinning all around him and then he woke up at Santa Barbara Cottage,’ said Seal.
‘It sounded like he must have traveled 300 feet.’
The mudslide hit the couple’s Hot Springs Road home so hard it was knocked off its foundations, according to another friend.
A damaged house and vehicle are seen after a mudslide that left 17 dead, 43 missing and hundreds of others trapped inside their homes
Mudslides ripped through homes, causing death and destruction to anything that got in its way
Homes were ripped open by debris carried by the mudslides that ravaged Santa Barbara
Friends and family have paid tribute to Fleurat, who studied nursing at Santa Barbara City College and worked as an end-of-life carer.
Juli Miller wrote on Facebook: ‘With a very heavy heart, our kind, creative friend with an unforgettable laugh has left us. Thank you all for sharing and especially to Cynthia for finding the most recent information for us. Hug your loved ones and stay in contact with people you adore. You never know when it will be too late.’
‘He’s a great loss to so many people,’ Seal said. ‘He was just a very unique person. Everyone loved him. He was fun, he was mischievous, he would also always play jokes on you.’
Fleurat grew up in upstate New York and moved to Montecito in the 1970s. There he met Barajas and the couple have been together for the past 20 years. His family are now traveling down from New York for his funeral.
Friends and family have paid tribute to Fleurat, who studied nursing at Santa Barbara City College and worked as an end-of-life carer
Fleurat grew up in upstate New York and moved to Montecito in the 1970s. There he met Barajas and the couple have been together for the past 20 years
A GoFundMe account has been set up by Barajas’ niece Angelique Barajas to help pay for Fleurat’s funeral and her uncle’s medical expenses.
‘Sadly, (Barajas) lost his home and his partner of close to 20 years, Peter Fleurat, in the tragic mudslide in Montecito on Tuesday, January 9,’ she wrote, adding that her uncle had been left with just the clothes he was wearing.
His restaurant posted on Facebook Wednesday saying they would remain open, ‘keeping Lalo’s pride and joy going while he tries to cope with this tragic loss.’
Officials confirmed that 17 people, aged from 3 years old to 89, all residents of Montecito, were killed in the mudslides and another five were still missing. The floods also destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes.
Josie Gower, 69, a retired nurse, (left and right) was confirmed dead by friends on social media on Wednesday after a frantic 24 hour search for her
A friend said that Gower (pictured with her son Hayden) and another friend had been on the second floor of her home but had gone downstairs after hearing noises
‘Why didn’t she stay upstairs?’ her son Hayden Gower asked ABC News in tears. ‘Why did she go downstairs?’
Search and rescue teams are still working to try and find survivors, and the wealthy enclave of Montecito, home to many of the rich and famous including Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres and Rob Lowe, was placed under a new madatory evacuation order at 6pm local time Thursday.
Almost the entire community of 10,000 must leave under the order which could last ‘one to two weeks,’ according to the Santa Barbara County fire chief.
Meanwhile the community is coming to terms with the loss of so many friends and neighbors.
Dr Mark T. Montgomery, 54, and his daughter Caroline Montgomery, 22, were both killed in the floods.
The hand surgeon, a popular figure in the local community, who graduated from Princeton University and Columbia University Medical School, was described as ‘kind and caring’ by his patients.
He was at home with his wife and two kids when the mudslide hit. His wife and son Duffy survived, but Mark was swept away and killed. His daughter Caroline died in her brother’s arms, KSBY reports.
Caroline, graduated Santa Barbara Montessori School and studied at Barnard College, Columbia University in New York. She may have been back home for the holidays when the mudslide hit.
Dr Mark Montgomery, 54, (left) and his daughter Caroline Montgomery, 22, (right) were also killed
Real estate broker Rebbecca Riskin, 61, (right) were killed in the mudslides
Josie Gower, 69, a retired nurse, was confirmed dead by friends on social media on Wednesday after a frantic 24 hour search for her.
A friend said that Gower and another friend had been on the second floor of her home but had gone downstairs after hearing noises. They were both swept away by the mudslide, although the other friend was found clinging to a nearby tree.
‘Why didn’t she stay upstairs?’ her son Hayden Gower asked ABC News in tears. ‘Why did she go downstairs?’
Friends revealed that her body was carried ‘several miles’ by the river of mud which rushed through the town.
‘Heartbreaking loss as we learned that she was taken from us by the muddy floodwaters and swept downhill for several miles,’ one said. She is believed to have died along with her dog.
‘She was very gregarious, very unique. In so many ways she was so beautiful,’ added Diane Brewer, who knew Gower for decades. ‘Everyone loves her. She truly was one of a kind.
‘And she would always stop to give cookies or other treats to people at the YMCA,’ she said.
Friends and family had been appealing for information of Josie’s whereabouts on social media.
McManigal, 64, (left) and his young son Connor (not pictured) were swept away in the mudslide. His son survived but John was sadly killed. Martin Cabrera-Munoz, 48, (right) also died in the mudslide
Rebecca Riskin, 61, a real estate agent and founder of Riskin Partners, and her two dogs were also killed when the mud swept through her living room on Glenoaks Boulevard. Her husband survived because he was in bed in another part of the house.
Riskin’s death was confirmed by her real estate agency on Wednesday after her body was found near a highway.
‘It is with heavy hearts we share that our dear friend and partner, Rebecca Riskin, has passed away as a result of the tragic flooding and mudslides in Montecito,’ the company wrote in a statement. ‘The confirmation of her loss is incredibly devastating to her friends, family, and our community.’
‘Rebecca was an exceptional woman, and her legacy will continue to live on and thrive through her children, Robert and Julia, her husband Ken Grand, and her namesake firm, Riskin Partners.’
Her frantic daughter said she was missing along with her dogs on Tuesday.
Marilyn Ramos, 27, (left) was killed along with her young daughter Kailly Benitez, 3, (right) in the floods
Her family are now trying to raise money for them to return both (left) mother and daughter (right) , to Ramos’ native Marquelia, in Guerrero, southern Mexico
Neighbors have since told how they had to be rescued from her roof to survive as the slides swept over their homes.
Riskin is survived by her husband, two grown children and a grandson.
Colleagues at Riskin Partners described how she’s closed more than $2 billion worth of deals since founding the firm in the 1990s.
‘She’s leaving a huge void. She was exceptional,’ said Gina Conte of Riskin, a former ballerina with the American Ballet Theater in New York until an injury sent her back to LA in the late 1970s.
Father-of-six John McManigal, 64, was swept away by the muds as he and his young son Connor fled in the early hours of the morning. Connor was reportedly found not far from their home and has been hospitalized but authorities have not yet found John.
Connor’s worried brother, Tyler McManigal, 28, who is stationed at a military base in Hawaii, read about the mudslides and shared his concerns for his father on Wednesday.
The coroner confirmed John’s death on Thursday. A GoFundMe account has been set up to raise money for the grieving family.
Married couple James, 89, (left) and Alice, 78, (right) Mitchell were tragically killed on Tuesday
The elderly couple had been married for more than 50 years and had just celebrated Jim’s 89th birthday when they were swept away along with their beloved white poodle Gigi. The coroner confirmed their deaths on Thursday
Marilyn Ramos, 27, and her young daughter Kailly Benitez, 3, were also tragically killed in the floods on Tuesday.
Her family, including her parents Francisco ‘Paco’ Ramos and Martha Tapia Gil, are now trying to raise money for them to return both mother and daughter, to Ramos’ native Marquelia, in Guerrero, southern Mexico.
Sawyer Corey, 12, and her sister Morgan, 25, were at home with the rest of their family when the mudslides crept over their home. Their mother Carrie and other sister, Summer, were also swept away but they were rescued. They are currently in hospital recovering from the ordeal.
But on Thursday, the coroner confirmed that Sawyer was among the dead.
Her sister Morgan is still missing.
Jonathan Benitez, nine, was swept from his home along with his mother, Fabiola, who is missing. The child’s father and brother survived and were hospitalized.
On Thursday, a resident in Montecito who is friends with the family confirmed to DailyMail.com that Jonathan’s body had been found.
Sawyer Corey, 12 was at home with the rest of their family when the mudslides crept over their home. Her mother Carrie and twin sister, Summer, were also swept away but they were rescued (pictured is Sawyer, Summer and their mom Carrie)
Kids, Sawyer Corey, 12, (left) and Jonathan Benitez, nine, (right) died after he was swept from their home in the floods
David Cantin, 49, died after being swept away from his home along with his teenage son. His daughter Lauren was filmed being rescued by firefighters from their home after they heard her screaming from the wreckage.
Friends initially reported that his son Jack had been found safe and was hospitalized but those reports lost weight on Thursday as relatives continued to search for him.
Roy Rohter, 84, was swept away from his home along with his wife Theresa in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Theresa was rescued from the mud and was taken to hospital.
Her husband’s death was confirmed by St. Augustine Academy in Ventura which he founded in 1994. Rohter, a former real estate broker, was the first victim to be confirmed dead in the disaster.
Elderly couple James Mitchell, 89, and Alice Mitchell, 78, had been missing since early on Tuesday.
Roy Rohter (left) was swept away from his home with his wife. She survived but he was killed. Dave Cantin (right) was also swept to his death in the mudslide
Larry and Judy Anderson, who live on Feather Hill, Montecito, have also been reported missing by family and friends
Their worried relatives appealed for information about their whereabouts on social media. The couple had been married for more than 50 years and had just celebrated Jim’s 89th birthday when they were swept away along with their beloved white poodle Gigi.
The coroner confirmed their deaths on Thursday.
Martin Cabrera-Munoz, 48, was confirmed dead by younger brother Joel who said Martin was killed when the floods hit East Valley Road. The family have launched a GoFundMe page to raise money for his funeral services.
Also named among the dead were Peerawat Sutthithepn, 6, and Richard Taylor, 67.
Larry Anderson, 73, and Judy Anderson, 78, remain missing as of Friday. The couple’s friends and relatives appealed for help to find them on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday, some residents reported speaking to neighbors who said the couple had been found safe but their claims are unconfirmed.
The 101 Highway which Thorne spoke of is seen closed on both sides in Montecito, California on Thursday
Vehicles are seen stopped after a 6pm mandatory evacuation order is placed following the mudslide and its devastation
A destroyed vehicle is shown amid the California mudslide that forced highways to close down
Rescue workers slogged through knee-deep ooze and used long poles to probe for bodies as the search dragged on for victims of the mudslides that slammed this wealthy coastal town
A search and rescue worker is seen trekking through properties from the mudslide that destroyed hundreds of homes
The mudslides destroyed 100 houses and damaged 300 others after debris spread across a wide swath of Montecito – a wealthy enclave of about 9,000 people northwest of Los Angeles that is home to a number of high profile celebrities.
The death toll climbed to 17 yesterday as emergency workers pulled bodies from a river of knee-deep mud and continued to search grimy debris and ruins for the five people still missing.
Santa Barbara Sheriff Bill Brown told residents forced from their homes this morning that he was’ searching for a miracle’.
‘We know that this a terribly inconvenient development but it is also incredibly necessary,’ he said.
Aerial images of the area show that Oprah Winfrey’s $50million estate managed to survive the mudslide. She said her property had suffered some minor damage, but nothing compared to that of her neighbors.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s $4.9 million Montecito home’s ‘Monet-like’ gardens have been ravaged by mudslides. Pictured before the deluge, left, and after, right
San Ysidro Ranch, pictured before the mudslides, left, and after, right, has been covered in thick mud and some of its cottages have been buried
Photos show the extent of the damage, such as this guest cottages at the storied San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito which has been hit badly by the deadly mudflow
Oprah’s mansion: Aerial images of the area show that Oprah’s $50million estate managed to survive the mudslide
Shocking images that captured the area north of Oprah’s estate show severely damaged homes that were completely engulfed by the river of mud. She shared video of her in knee-deep mud and debris as she said a fence had been knocked down and that she was ‘devastated’ over the damage to her neighbor’s home.
Gwyneth Paltrow was not so lucky and aerial images reveal her mud covered gardens. And it’s not just her property portfolio that took a hit on Tuesday. San Ysidro Ranch, where she tied the knot with Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin, has been all but destroyed by the mudslides. The couple wed in the ranch’s Willow Cottage in a private ceremony on December 5, 2003. They divorced last year but the pair remain friends and have two children together.
The beloved venue for countless celebrity weddings, from Lawrence Olivier’s nuptials with Vivien Leigh in 1940, to Jessica Simpson’s wedding to Eric Johnson in 2014. Even the Kennedys honeymooned here after JFK wed Jacqueline in 1953.
But the ranch, which is nestled 500 acres of gardens in the mountains of Montecito, was ravaged by Tuesday’s mudslides.