National News

Mudslide victims: School founder, real estate broker remembered

Posted January 10, 2018 8:16 p.m. EST

— The vicious mudflows that raced through the Southern California town of Montecito early Tuesday were swift and ruthless. Families were ripped apart, being swept away, with some victims surviving while some did not.

At least 17 people were killed and others were missing as authorities searched through the destruction for signs of them.

Family members and friends mourned their loved ones and shared memories.

Here's what we know so far about the victims:

Roy Rohter

Rohter founded St. Augustine Academy in Ventura, California, in 1994, current headmaster and friend Michael Van Hecke said.

In a statement, Van Hecke said Rohter and his wife were swept away from their home in Montecito. She was rescued and is in stable condition.

Her husband did much for Catholic causes, Van Hecke said.

"Roy's life has been in service to his good, loving and ever-forgiving God," Van Hecke said. "Thousands have been blessed by the Rohters' friendship and generosity."

Van Hecke said Rohter talked about wanting prayers when he died.

"He said so many times that after his passing, 'Make sure everyone prays for my soul.' We will, Roy!"

Rohter and his family spent eight days at Hecke's house in December when the Rohters were evacuated because of fires, Van Hecke said.

Josie Gower

Diane Brewer knew Josie Gower, 69, for 54 years.

"She was very gregarious, very unique. In so many ways she was so beautiful," Brewer said.

Brewer said Gower lived passionately, whether she was interacting with children, grandchildren, friends -- or strangers.

"Everyone loves her. She truly was one of a kind," Brewer said.

She described her friend as warm and loving and as never speaking negatively about anyone.

Gower loved to travel, she said.

"And she would always stop to give cookies or other treats to people at the YMCA," she said.

Rebecca Riskin

Riskin was a Los Angeles native and a long-time real estate agent. The founder of Riskin Partners, she moved to Montecito in 1990, according to a biography on her company's website.

The luxury real estate agency called her loss "incredibly devastating" and said she was an exceptional woman.

"We intend to carry out her life's work with the same strength, grace and elegance that wholly defined Rebecca," the statement said.

She is survived by a husband and two adult children.

Riskin was 61, according to CNN affiliate KEYT.

The former professional ballerina was known as the first lady of luxury real estate, KEYT reported.