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Bucket Brigade continues its search one year after Montecito mudslide

Posted at 7:05 PM, Jan 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-10 15:18:11-05

Twenty-one people were killed in the Montecito mudslide one year ago on January 9, 2018, but to this day two people who were swept away have not been found.

The Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade was formed shortly after the mudslide swept through Montecito.

The group has spent countless hours searching for the missing, 2-year-old Lydia Suttithepa and 17-year-old John “Jack” Cantin, but the search is not over.

Volunteers said they are now zeroing in on several spots they haven’t sifted through.

“When you look around, you still see that there are areas to be cleaned up and there are still some piles in front of people’s homes,” Volunteer with the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade Ann Burgard said. “They’re still dealing with insurance and the fact is that it’s only been a year for something that was pretty major in this town.”

Over the past 12 months, Burgard said she has seen the town’s transformation little by little.

“You seen greens coming back and people are landscaping and things are happening and yet we’re still, as Bucket Brigade and other people are out, digging and a lot of this has to do with the search for the two missing children, we still have a couple small pockets to look at after this rain,” Burgard said.

Sutthithepa and Cantin are at the center of a search led by the Bucket Brigade.

Abe Powell is the head of it all.

“The amount of emotion and experience and activity that’s been packed in the last year, it feels like you know, a decade or a lifetime,” Powell said.

When KSBY interviewed volunteers in September 2018, they worked in over 85 homes, cleared a 44-acre open space and they moved over four million buckets of dirt.

Months later, they’re closing in on the final 4,000 to 8,000 square feet and they’re still finding items important to the families.

“In looking for Jack and Lydia, we found a quilt just behind me on the side of the creek that Jack’s mom made for him and his father and it had a silhouette of Jack and Dave on the quilt. It feels so good to be able to give somebody anything after they’ve lost everything,” Powell said.

People have donated about 3,200 hours of their time. Community members say the search is not only for the families of Cantin and Sutthithepa but the town as a whole.

“It cleans the community up and visually the community is healing as we’re going through these properties and clearing them and looking for these children and that’s helping the healing process for everyone,” Powell said.

The Brigade plans on resuming search efforts once the wet dirt from this week’s rain dries out a bit.