Subscribe to Breaking News emails

You have successfully subscribed to the Breaking News email.

Subscribe today to be the first to to know about breaking news and special reports.

Body of mother found after California mudslide, death toll rises to 21

by Phil Helsel /

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

Searchers looking for victims of a devastating mudslide that struck in the Montecito, California, area last week have found the body of a mother whose child was also killed in the disaster, the sheriff’s office said, bring the number of confirmed deaths to 21.

The body later identified as that of Faviola Benitez Calderon, 28, of Montecito, was found at around 10 a.m. Saturday, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

Her 10-year-old son, Jonathan Benitez, that boy's cousin Kailly Benitez, 3, and Kailly’s mother, 27-year-old Marilyn Ramos, were also killed in the mudslide and their bodies were previously found, the sheriff’s office said.

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

"The Sheriff's Office wants to express our deepest condolences to the Benitez family," the sheriff’s office said in the statement.

The mudslide struck the Montecito area on the morning of Jan. 9, after a storm dumped a large amount of rain in a short time on areas burned in the massive Thomas Fire which raged in the region for weeks in December, officials have said.

In this Jan. 13, 2018, file photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, Capt. John Pepper, Fresno Fire Department, and Rescue Squad Leader RTF-5 searches homes off East Valley Road in Montecito, Calif.
In this Jan. 13, 2018, file photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, Capt. John Pepper, Fresno Fire Department, and Rescue Squad Leader RTF-5 searches homes off East Valley Road in Montecito, Calif.AP

The Thomas fire burned more than 281,000 acres and destroyed more than 1,000 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties since it broke out on Dec. 4, and the fire was only 100 percent contained last week, officials said.

Related: Montecito homeowners sue utilities, alleging negligence before deadly mudslide

Two people remain missing in the wake of the mudslide. They are old Lydia Sutthithepa, 2, and Jack Cantin, 17, the sheriff’s office said. Crews are continuing to work to find them.

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
MORE FROM news