Owners of home destroyed in landslide grateful for 'love of this community'

By Morgan Jacobsen, Deseret News

Published: Fri, Aug. 8, 2014, 6:00 p.m. MDT

 Elena Utrilla, right, hugs Kristi Burgess, wife of her LDS church bishop, following a press conference detailing help for the Utrilla family in North Salt Lake, Friday, Aug. 8, 2014. The Utrilla's lost their home to a landslide. At back left is Ismael Utrilla.

Elena Utrilla, right, hugs Kristi Burgess, wife of her LDS church bishop, following a press conference detailing help for the Utrilla family in North Salt Lake, Friday, Aug. 8, 2014. The Utrilla's lost their home to a landslide. At back left is Ismael Utrilla.

(Ravell Call, Deseret News)

NORTH SALT LAKE — Edgardo and Elena Utrilla, along with their children and grandchildren, will never get back their home of three years after it crumbled in Tuesday's landslide.

But the community has given them cause to hope for the next best thing.

Scott Kjar, vice president of EaglePointe Development, announced Friday an initiative to provide a lot and to build a new house for the Utrilla family. The development, owned by Sky Properties, is heading the cause and asked community members to contribute.

"We have a value of bearing one another's burdens," Kjar said. "Today, we're here to ask you to help us to bear their burdens … to get them a home."

The family says the inherent risk of living on a steep hillside is one they're willing to accept again to continue living alongside the neighbors with whom they've become close friends, especially in recent days.

"For the family, the priority is to be close to the neighbors," David Utrilla said. "For them, that is the family, too. They don't want to be separated from their family."

The developer will provide a lot — valued at about $130,000 — and is raising funds to offset the cost of a $500,000 home, according to Kjar. Should contributions come up short, the company plans to fund the rest, he said.

The city plans to host a benefit golf tournament at the Eaglewood Golf Course on Sept. 26 in support of the Utrilla family.

Those who wish to contribute can do so at utrillafamily.wordpress.com or through the Utrilla Family Relief Fund at America First Credit Union.

"Our commitment is to get them a home," Kjar said. "We invite everyone to help out and participate."

EaglePointe would head similar initiatives should the three other displaced families be permanently unable to move back into their homes, he said.

Until then, the developer is providing temporary housing for the four families.

Community members have also stepped forward in meeting the immediate needs of everyone affected, Utrilla said.

"We have a lot of words of gratitude to our neighbors and our friends," he said. "Such an overwhelming number of people calling, emailing, asking, 'How can we help?'"

Janice Nielson, Relief Society president of a neighboring LDS Church ward, said members have provided meals, clothing and bedding for the families.

"People were very, very willing and very quick in their responses," Nielson said. "It was a large outpouring of care. They're very mindful of one another, very united that way."

Utrilla said the family contacted their insurance company on the day of the slide to see if their home or anything inside of it would be covered.

"The insurance agent came and looked at it, and they notified us a couple of days ago that there is nothing they can do. There is no money that they can pay for anything," he said.

Kjar said crews will attempt to salvage as much from the Utrilla's home as possible when it's deemed safe to begin removing the remains.

While the family looks forward to a new home, much of what was lost can't be replaced.

"There are a lot of (photographs), journals, things that have passed from one generation to another that are material of course, but you can't replace that," Utrilla said of his parents' home. "Everything they have has been buried there in that home."

Crews installed a road onto the slide Thursday and will install monitoring equipment over the weekend to gather information critical to forming a construction plan.

David Utrilla's mother, Elena, sat quietly through the announcement of what was to come for her and her family. But a smile revealed her hope in overcoming a loss that, at times, has been overwhelming.

"I've been able to see the hands of many angels that have helped us. … I feel very happy and at peace, and that the Lord is with me," Elena Utrilla said in Spanish. "It's too much, the love of this community."

Email: mjacobsen@deseretnews.com

Twitter: MorganEJacobsen

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1. Russ
Salt Lake City, UT,
Aug. 8, 2014

Not sure how I feel about a $650,000 give away. Why won't their insurance cover the cost? Perhaps because they built the house on top of a sand pit. Is this an attempt by the developer to sweep it under the rug? Paying off a potential lawsuit that could cost them millions? I smell a very big rodent here.
I do think the family should be helped, but not at the hands of the community. The company should pay for it all and not hide behind a "charity event." Also, if you live up there you might consider moving before the next big rainfall or earthquake.

2. Nan BW
ELder, CO,
Aug. 8, 2014

I am suspicious of the motives of the development company too. It is totally heart warming to know of all the help that they have been given in this sad situation. That part is great, but somehow I can't feel very admiring of those who put this development in motion. Landslides aren't anything new, and those houses should not be there. My best wishes to all who are having to cope with this, but no best wishes to those turning the hillside into housing.

3. DEW
Sandy, UT,
Aug. 8, 2014

Wow, how sweet of them. But hey, what about some other home owners who lost their homes do to with similar events or homes had to be destroyed to make way on new highways. Remember this "Extreme Makeover", which was WAY over board show. This is fishy.

4. Hey It's Me
Salt Lake City, UT,
Aug. 8, 2014

It's nice to help but it is the engineers problem and builders problem, not the publics.
What about all those counties that the houses got 6 feet of mud in.To those people they bought a house they could afford why are we not doing fundraisers for them. Do we just feel bad for the rich people? It makes me sick to think the builder is trying to get the public to pay for it. (Probably trying to avoid a law suit!!!!

5. BobKjar
Humble, TX,
Aug. 9, 2014

Interesting how the people of North Salt Lake are always suspicious of someone who makes matters right. You should all be ashamed.