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Presumed remains of teen found 3 years after deadly California mudslide

"My family can have closure. Jack's friends can have closure. And, the community can have closure," the teen's mother, Kim Cantin, said.
Rescue workers search homes in Montecito, Calif., after mudslides devastated the area on January 13, 2018.
Rescue workers search homes in Montecito, Calif., after mudslides devastated the area on January 13, 2018.Mike Eliason / AP file

Officials believe they have found the remains of a 17-year-old boy who disappeared three years ago in the Montecito, California, mudslide.

Jack Cantin vanished — and was presumed dead — after the mudslide swept through the wealthy Santa Barbara County town on the morning of Jan. 9, 2018. 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 said.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office said it has received a one-page forensic report from a University of California, Santa Barbara anthropologist which stated that the remains “are consistent with those of Jack Cantin,” according to a news release.

The anthropologist, Dr. Danielle Kurin, said she was more than 90 percent certain the "remains are those of Jack Cantin," the sheriff's office said. The agency said it has asked for the full report and Jack's case remains open.

Jack Cantin, 17, whose remains have been found three years after he went missing in a California mudslide.Courtesy / Cantin Family

More than 20 people were killed in the mudslide, including Jack's father, David Cantin. The teen's mother, Kim Cantin, and his sister were injured.

In January 2018, Kim Cantin released a statement calling her husband a "selfless" man who was devoted to his family.

"Dave lit up our world with an infectious smile behind which was a man who was led by his values of faith, family and a goal to make a difference," she wrote. "I could not have had a more loving, kind, and devoted husband. Our children, Jack and Lauren, could not have had a better father."

Kim Cantin could not immediately be reached on Saturday. She told local news station KEYT that her son's remains were found within 1,000 yards of where the family's former home stood on Hot Springs Road in Montecito.

She said the recovery was made with the help of Kurin, community members and Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue crews.

"It was the love of all the people, whoever they were, who helped along the way," she told the station. "What really made it all happen was engaging the UCSB Anthropology Department and Dr. Danielle Kurin, a Forensic Biologic Anthropologist. 20 minutes away from us — what amazing technology and resources to find Jack. And that's what they did."

Jack will be buried next to his father, she said.

"My family can have closure. Jack's friends can have closure. And, the community can have closure. I know this community was amazing and everyone was rooting and praying that we'd find these kids," she said.

Kurin said Kim Cantin contacted the university's anthropology department in 2020 for help. It was a team of undergraduate research assistants who found the remains during the excavation and later determined they belonged to Jack, she said in a press release.

“Victims of the mudslide are our neighbors,” Kurin said, “and as a public institution, UCSB seeks to use research for the public good. As anthropologists, we used every scientific tool in our kit to locate Jack’s remains and bring closure to a family and community beset by tragedy.”

One other victim, Lydia Sutthithepa, 2, remains missing, according to authorities. The child's father, Pinit Sutthithepa, 30, was killed in the mudslide along with her brother, 6-year-old Peerawat; and Pint's father-in-law, Richard Loring Taylor, 79.