- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 22, 2005

VENTURA, Calif. (AP) — Friends and family gathered yesterday on a windy beach to bid farewell to 10 persons who were killed when a mudslide damaged more than two dozen homes in the free-spirited oceanfront village of La Conchita.

Hundreds of people wearing shorts, sandals and Hawaiian shirts converged for the ceremony, in which surfers planned to paddle about 100 yards from shore and say a prayer before spreading the ashes of some of the victims amid flowers floating on the waves.

The mudslide on Jan. 10 was triggered by days of heavy rain that turned Southern California into a flood zone. The torrential rain was responsible for 28 deaths in the state.

Among the dead in La Conchita were Jimmie Wallet’s wife, Mechelle, 37, and daughters Hannah, 10, Raven, 6, and Paloma, 2. They died while sitting together on a couch after Mr. Wallet and another daughter had gone out for ice cream.

Mr. Wallet, 37, arrived early at the service with his surviving daughter but did not speak with reporters.

“He’s in a daze,” said his close friend, Gary Gallardo.

Another victim, 51-year-old Charly Womack, was remembered as a surfer, musician and artist who made beautiful cabinets. Friends said he moved into a teepee so the Wallet family could live in his La Conchita house.

“He was one of the most energetic people I have ever seen,” said Michael Johnson, a cousin.

Much of the beach 13 miles southeast of La Conchita remained littered with logs, plywood, ceramic planters and other debris that washed down the Ventura River during the four days of heavy rain preceding the mudslide. Fifteen homes in the town were destroyed, and 16 were damaged.

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