Kim Cantin talks to News-Press about the discovery of her son Jack’s remains in Montecito
Three and a half years after the devastating Montecito debris flow destroyed her home and took the lives of half her family, Kim Cantin has finally received some closure.
At last, after 40 months of searching and hoping, the remains of Mrs. Cantin’s 17-year-old son, Jack, were found in Montecito earlier this year.
Mrs. Cantin, a survivor of the debris flow, said the remains of her 17-year-old son, Jack Cantin, were discovered in May within 1,000 yards of where the family’s home on Hot Springs Road once stood.
Jack and his father, Dave Cantin, were among the 23 people who perished in the debris flow. In the days following the Jan. 9, 2018, debris flow, search and rescue crews were unable to locate Jack’s body. This led to an effort that culminated in more than three years of searching by community members and anthropologists.
A team of UCSB anthropologists and undergraduate researchers are 90% confident that they discovered Jack’s remains in May. While the information is still being confirmed by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, Mrs. Cantin said she is relieved to be able to bury her son with dignity.
“One of the most horrible things that I experienced — that I would wish on no one — was to lose a loved one where they kind of essentially vanished and you don’t know where they are, and you want to have them to lay them to rest with dignity. I wasn’t afforded that,” Mrs. Cantin told the News-Press Wednesday.
“I’m just relieved (now),” the Santa Barbara resident later added. “It’s obviously a tragedy. I’m always going to miss my husband and son, but I’m much more relieved and at peace knowing that his remains can be buried with dignity, and I can tuck him into a casket and bury him next to his dad.”
Reflecting on the three and a half years spent searching for her son, Mrs. Cantin said she is awed by the support and compassion of many community members who helped in the effort.
Starting in 2018, Mrs. Cantin and a core group of seven individuals led the search effort in its earliest stages, meeting consistently to gather evidence and search for the location of Jack’s remains. The group mapped out where pieces of evidence from the Cantin family’s former home were found in an effort to locate Jack’s body.
Throughout the search, Mrs. Cantin held on to hope that her son would eventually be found. She said her “mama fibers” told her that his body was not swept out to the ocean and that he was still out there.
“They were walking with me on my grief journey,” Mrs. Cantin said of the group of seven. “They weren’t telling me to move on, they weren’t telling me that he went into the ocean.
“Their response was, ‘We’re here until you think we’re done,’” Mrs. Cantin told the News-Press. “It was this amazing human gesture of kindness and compassion.”
Mrs. Cantin voiced admiration for the volunteers with search dogs who spent thousands of hours patrolling the area, the perseverance of Rick Stein from Santa Barbara Search and Rescue and the efforts of the UCSB anthropology research team that led to the discovery of Jack’s remains. Without the help of UCSB and the expertise of the researchers, Mrs. Cantin said they would not have been able to find Jack.
Now that a new relationship has been established with the university, if future disasters hit the region, Ms. Cantin said she is hopeful that officials and Santa Barbara Search and Rescue can turn to UCSB sooner for help.
“You meet people for a reason or season, and I think the reason maybe Professor Kurin got involved ws so that in future disasters, now Santa Barbara Search and Rescue has a contact at the lab that can help earlier,” Ms. Cantin said. “My hope is that in future events — God forbid there is one — now there is a connection.”