Rafael Avitabile

Local Coast Guard Helicopter Crews Save Lives During Mudslide Response in Santa Barbara

Two San Diego Sector United States Coast Guard helicopter crews flew to the Santa Barbara area Tuesday to aid in emergency mudslide response and made heroic rescues that were caught on video.

The first crew launched at around 9:30 a.m. and within two hours, the MH-60 Jayhawk crew was lowering rescue swimmers down to a house in Carpenteria where a family of 5, including a newborn and two other kids younger than 10 years old, had become trapped by a mudslide.

A member of the helicopter crew said that the first floor of the family's home was filled with 3 to 4 feet of mud. 

Cameras on board the helicopter offered a bird's eye view of Santa Barbara-area emergency personnel helping family members out of the house and up onto the roof of their home where the Coast Guard crew could get to them.

Another camera stationed right above the helicopter's lift cable caught the moments the father, mother, newborn, 9-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter and two dogs were raised to safety.

After the family was lifted to a nearby staging area, the crew paired up with a second Jayhawk called to assist the California National Guard as they evacuated a shelter threatened by the storm.

The two choppers landed on the fairway of a nearby golf course and loaded their cabins with as many evacuees as they could and brought them to safety.

Together, the two Jayhawk crews rescued more than 20 evacuees from the shelter and transported them to a safer location.

Mudslides in the area killed 13 people Tuesday. After a night of heavy rain, flows of mud carried boulders and other large debris that eventually crashed into homes, cars and property.

Several homes were swept off of their foundations, a gas line was ruptured, and a portion of the 101 Freeway and many other local roads were completely blocked.

The flooding comes just weeks after the Thomas fire burned nearly 282,000 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, stripping hillsides of vegetation needed to stem water runoff during rainstorms. Burn areas are more susceptible to flooding because rain bounces off the barren surface instead of being absorbed into the soil.

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