Authorities said on Saturday that rescue workers cut through the body of a family friend - not the mother - of a boy pulled alive from a car crushed in the collapse of the Cypress Freeway during the Oct. 17 earthquake.
The boy, Julio Berumen, 6, and his sister, Cathy, 8, both of Richmond, Calif., became symbols of the tragedy and buoyed the spirits of rescue workers in the aftermath of the 7.1 magnitude quake. They were pulled from the back seat of a car smashed on the lower deck of a double-decker freeway that collapsed like a pancake.Both youngsters were listed in stable condition Saturday with major injuries at Children's Hospital in Oakland.
California Highway Patrolman Tom Noble said Julio's mother, Petra Berumen, 25, was driving the car and a friend, Yolanda Orozco, 44, also of Richmond, Calif., was riding in the right front passenger seat. Both women were killed.
Fire Capt. Ron Carter, who directed rescue effort of the Berumen children, said it was necessary for rescue workers to cut through Orozco's body to free Julio, whose right leg had to be amputated to free him.
In the confusion of the first night of rescue efforts, workers told the media the mother's body had been cut through to free the boy. Coroner's officials in Alameda County were aware of the error but did not clarify the mistake until late this week.
When asked about the mistaken identity Saturday, Deputy Coroner Sgt. James Crowley still refused to confirm which body was cut through to free the boy.
"We don't establish a relationship between the individuals," Crowley said." We notify the next of kin. What their relationship is, we don't have any responsibility for."
A spokeswoman for Children's Hospital, Andrea Bedell, also refused to clarify the mistake and would not allow a UPI reporter to talk to any hospital administrators.