Friends and family gathered Saturday on a windy beach to bid farewell to 10 people who were killed when a mudslide damaged more than two dozen homes in the free-spirited oceanfront village of La Conchita.
Hundreds of people wearing shorts, sandals and Hawaiian shirts converged for the ceremony in which about 50 surfers paddled 300 yards from shore, the names of the victims were read, and family and friends scattered orchid leis in the waves.
The mudslide on Jan. 10 was triggered by days of heavy rain that turned Southern California into a flood zone. The torrential rain was responsible for 28 deaths in the state.
Among the dead in La Conchita were Jimmie Wallet’s wife Mechelle, 37, and daughters Hannah, 10, Raven, 6, and Paloma, 2. They died while sitting together on a couch after Jimmie Wallet and another daughter had gone out for ice cream.
“This community is all heart,” the dreadlocked Wallet, 37, said between hugs from dozens of people.
“He’s in a daze,” said his close friend, Gary Gallardo.
Another victim, 51-year-old Charly Womack, was remembered as a surfer, musician and artist who made beautiful cabinets. Friends said he moved into a teepee so the Wallet family could live in his La Conchita house.
“He was totally a surfer,” said Michael Johnson, Womack’s cousin. “And he was one of the most energetic people I have ever seen.”
Womack’s ashes were scattered in the ocean during the ceremony.
“My dad was pretty cool,” daughter Tessa Womack said. “He was a living angel.”
Much of the beach 13 miles southeast of La Conchita remained littered with logs, plywood, ceramic planters and other debris that washed down the Ventura River during the four days of heavy rain preceding the mudslide. Fifteen homes in the town were destroyed and 16 were damaged.
La Conchita, with just 156 homes, is a Bohemian community populated by a variety of artisans, surfers and retirees.