Deadly California mudslides claim couple married 50 years and 'The First Lady of Luxury Real Estate'

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Associated Press

A victim of California's deadly mudslides had celebrated his 89th birthday just hours earlier, while another was a ballerina turned real estate agent known as "The First Lady of Luxury Real Estate" in parts of Montecito, an enclave for the wealthy and famous.

This January 2017, photo provided by Kelly Weimer, shows Jim Mitchell, 89, with his wife, Alice Mitchell, 78, and their dog, Gigi. The Mitchell's and their dog have been missing since Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, when their Montecito, Calif., home was swept away by the torrent of mud, trees and boulders that flowed down a fire-scarred mountain and slammed into the coastal town in Santa Barbara County. (Kelly Weimer via AP)

Jim Mitchell, 89, with his wife, Alice Mitchell, 78, and their dog, Gigi

Source: Associated Press

Survivors included a 14-year-old girl miraculously pulled muddy and dazed from a home collapsed by the flows that killed her father.

As authorities looked for victims and residents took stock of the devastation, some were left to wonder how they survived when neighbours didn't.

Here are some of their stories:

Oprah Winfrey has given a live cross from the catastrophic mudslides around her, and Ellen's, homes in Montecito, California,
Source: Associated Press

Jim and Alice Mitchell had been married for more than 50 years and had just celebrated Jim's 89th birthday when they were swept away along with their beloved dog Gigi.

Jim, who worked in labour relations, and Alice, a schoolteacher, had raised their two children in Southern California's Orange County before moving to Montecito in 1995 after retiring.

At least 13 people were confirmed dead yesterday, and 25 injured, after mudslides swept through northwest Los Angeles.
Source: Associated Press

"They're an adorable couple, and they were in love with their house," their daughter, Kelly Weimer, said before learning they had died.

She last spoke to them Tuesday when she called to wish her father a happy birthday.

The couple had planned to stay in the night of the storm and have a quiet dinner. Their grandson had taken them out to celebrate the day before.

Six people have died in the storm after reportedly only 10 to 15 per cent of residents acted on evacuation warnings.
Source: Associated Press

The Mitchells are survived by their two children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

'The First Lady of Luxury Real Estate' among mudslide victims

Rebecca Riskin was the picture of success and health before she was killed.

This undated photo provided by Gina Conte, shows Rebecca Riskin. Riskin, the founder of Riskin Partners, was among those killed in this week's deadly Montecito, Calif., mudslides. Her company confirmed her death in a statement posted Wednesday night, Jan. 10, 2018, on Facebook. (Gina Conte via AP)

Rebecca Riskin was among those killed in this week's deadly Montecito, California, mudslides.

Source: Associated Press

Her firm, Riskin Partners, credited the former ballerina with having closed more than $US2 billion in high-end real estate sales since founding the company in the early 1990s.

"She's leaving a huge void. She was exceptional," said Gina Conte, who described the 61-year-old Riskin as her best friend, mentor and confidante.

Conte said Riskin, who was the maid of honour at her wedding, took joy in pairing the perfect home with the perfect family and loved cooking, going for long walks and spending movie nights with her family.

Riskin was swept away after a mudslide tore through her living room, Conte said, adding that her husband survived because he was in bed in a part of the house that stayed intact. Her body was found today near a highway.

Riskin Partners spokeswoman Erin Lammers said Riskin was a member of the American Ballet Theater in New York before an injury cut short her dancing career.

She returned to her hometown of Los Angeles in 1979, where she began selling high-end real estate on the city's west side. She moved to Montecito in the early 1990s.

Riskin is survived by her husband, two grown children and a grandson.

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