My husband and son were killed in a giant mudslide with 21 others. I don't want them to have died in vain. (2023)

  • Kim Cantin and her daughter survived a mudslide that hit their California home in 2018.
  • Cantin's husband and their son died in the tragedy — alongside 21 other people who lived near them.


This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Kim Cantin. It has been edited for length and clarity.

Our family held a memorial service for my 17-year-old son, Jack, who died in the 2018 mudslide that devastated our hometown of Montecito, California. Some 1,500 people came to the service at the Old Mission Santa Barbara.

The celebration of Jack's life took place 2 ½ months after the tragedy — while his body was still missing, buried deep in the flow. My husband, Dave, then 49, died the same night as Jack.

Three years later, my daughter, Lauren, and I took part in a private ceremony for Jack. It was only the two of us with the priests. Some of Jack's remains had been found by a team of anthropologists. We had a beautiful casket. It contained bone fragments, letters written by Jack's friends, and a few of his favorite things from his childhood. They included a lightsaber and a Stitch toy from the Disney movie "Lilo and Stitch."

(Video) Man Trapped In 6-m Pool With A Crocodile For 7 Days

A torrential storm loosened mud and debris from wildfires above our home

It was a moment of realness. An open casket is a cultural cue when someone dies. The profound reality of Jack's loss hit me. It was part of the closure before we buried him next to his dad.


Our family had evacuated three times during the Thomas Fire, the largest wildfire in the history of modern California, that had raged through the mountains above our house. But on January 8, 2018, when a torrential storm loosened mud and debris caused by the fire, we were not in the mandatory evacuation zone.

My husband and son were killed in a giant mudslide with 21 others. I don't want them to have died in vain. (1)

We were on high alert, watching the news and prepared with sandbags. Dave had cleaned out the French drain and the back line as a precaution. We'd booked a hotel in case we needed to leave. That was our plan.

But part of the mountain broke away and headed towards our home. Car-size boulders hit other boulders. The noise was deafening. It was like the sound of Niagara Falls mixed with an Amtrak train.

(Video) In 2050, Walls Separate Smart & Stupid Humans, Leaving The Stupid To Suffer

Dave opened the front door before the house was consumed. I was in the living room, and the kids were getting clothes from their rooms. He saw how the mud, and the rocks took out two houses in front of ours. Dave screamed, "Back door now!" There was no time to get to the car. We had to get out of the back of the house to survive.

My daughter was buried alive. It took 2 hours for rescuers to dig her out of the mud.

I think I lost consciousness when I went under the mud. I probably got hit on the head before waking up on the pile of debris. I know that I rolled into the ER around 8:30 a.m. I think I was on the pile for three hours before my rescue.


My injuries were horrible. I had a broken hip that needed surgery right away. But, at that stage, I wasn't told that my family was missing. Someone asked on the way to the hospital, "Who was in your house?" and "Where was it?"

I managed to answer, but I was disoriented. They'd given me painkillers and sedatives because I was in shock and had hypothermia.

Then, around 10:30 a.m., when they were bandaging and cleaning me up, a rescue coordinator came in to ask, "Do you have a daughter named Lauren?" They said they'd rescued her. It had taken two hours to get her out of the mud. They hadn't been able to use power tools because of a gas leak.

My husband and son were killed in a giant mudslide with 21 others. I don't want them to have died in vain. (2)

Lauren, who was 14 at the time, is the strongest and most resilient person I know. Imagine being buried alive under 20 feet of mud with just a tiny pocket of air to breathe. Miraculously, it was positioned by her nose and mouth.

(Video) How to speak so that people want to listen | Julian Treasure

She told me later that she kept her wits about her by singing songs from the musical "Les Misérables." She was about to play the character Fantine in a local theater production. So she practiced songs like "I Dreamed a Dream." The words are so poignant, and she sang them in her entombment. She had the wisdom to go to a familiar place that would bring about calm.


We learned about Dave the following day. Someone from the sheriff's office said, "We've found Dave." I said, "Is he alive?" He said, "No." I was in disbelief. He said they'd found his body on the shoreline. Telling Lauren was the hardest and saddest thing I've ever done.

Volunteers helped in the search for my son

I became a widow and the grieving mom of a missing boy. The mud had thickened, and the ground was covered in rocks and piles of debris. The authorities researched the direction of the mud flow and searched for Jack within a 30-mile radius.

Meanwhile, a community of volunteers dedicated itself to digging people out. They're called the "Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade." They brought buckets, shovels, and earth movers.

I worked with the brigade and a number of intuitive volunteers — people who are extremely perceptive who can sometimes receive messages through dreams. I was open to everything. They offered a different slant. One of them told me that a clue to the place where Jack was buried was Superman. Every time it rained, items would reveal themselves in the creek and the mud. One of Lauren's Christmas dresses showed up.

My husband and son were killed in a giant mudslide with 21 others. I don't want them to have died in vain. (3)

We were searching when we found a Superman figurine that belonged to Jack. Next, someone spotted a piece of fabric that turned out to be Jack's Halloween costume — a Superman outfit — from the age of 5 or 6. He'd never thrown it out. He'd always loved superheroes.

(Video) Dharam Veer{HD} Hindi Full Movie - Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Zeenat Aman -70's Movie - (Eng Subtitles)


A volunteer pulled it out of the ground. I thought: "This was Jack's. And, if this is here, Jack could be here."

I wrote a book about the tragedy. It has helped me deal with the heartbreak of losing my husband and son

Still, it took a team of anthropology students to find him. They used toothbrush-size brushes to clear the soil. The bones — which were found 500 yards from our home in May 2021 — were inside a carpet with a piece of Jack's underwear and some tile from a shower in the house. A full DNA test was inconclusive because of the degradation of the pieces of bone. But the analysis was thorough. The artifacts alone, such as the underwear, were pretty compelling.

I started writing my book, "Where Yellow Flowers Bloom: A True Story of Hope through Imaginable Loss," after Lauren, who is now 19, and I buried Jack. It was cathartic. I wrote about the bond between us — we have this unique, shared experience — and the love and support of the community. We need to learn from natural disasters and how and why they occur. The rescue units now have ground-penetrating radar so they can work together faster. I don't want Dave, Jack, and the 21 other victims of the mudslide to have died in vain. Let's honor their legacy by making things better.

My husband and son were killed in a giant mudslide with 21 others. I don't want them to have died in vain. (4)

People ask how I've gone from unbearable grief to the place I am now. I miss Dave and Jack every day. I want them to be physically here. But the volunteers who had that sixth sense not only helped with clues for the search; they relayed messages that my husband and son were walking together in pure joy. They're just in a dimension that I can't see.

My husband and I are still a team — a virtual team. He's taking care of our son. I'm taking care of our daughter.


(Video) 【ENG SUB】《Lost Track of Time 覆流年》EP10【MangoTV Drama】

Do you have a powerful story to share with Insider? Please send details to


1. I Never Had A Real Friend Like Me
(MSA previously My Story Animated)
2. How To Win Friends And Influence People Audiobook
(The Travel Hunts)
3. Famous Ukrainians: Queen and Predictor – Searching for the Truth | History | Documentary | Biography
(Searching for the Truth)
4. Vinashak {1998} - Hindi Full Movie - Sunil Shetty - Raveena Tandon - Danny Denzongpa- 90's Hit Movie
(Shemaroo Movies)
6. The True Story Of The Children Who Could Speak With The Dead | A Haunting | Timeline
(Timeline - World History Documentaries)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Allyn Kozey

Last Updated: 08/31/2023

Views: 6515

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (43 voted)

Reviews: 82% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Allyn Kozey

Birthday: 1993-12-21

Address: Suite 454 40343 Larson Union, Port Melia, TX 16164

Phone: +2456904400762

Job: Investor Administrator

Hobby: Sketching, Puzzles, Pet, Mountaineering, Skydiving, Dowsing, Sports

Introduction: My name is Allyn Kozey, I am a outstanding, colorful, adventurous, encouraging, zealous, tender, helpful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.