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Mother and Son Crash Victims Are Reunited

Recovering: They had been hospitalized in different counties since Sept. 9. Visit was a time for tears and holding hands.

October 07, 1997|EFRAIN HERNANDEZ JR. | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SHERMAN OAKS — A mother and son who were seriously injured in a highway crash near Lompoc that left 11 dead were reunited Monday for the first time since the accident Sept. 9.

A teary-eyed Rosa Hernandez, 41, and her son, Martin Camacho, 16, shared affectionate looks and caresses at the Grossman Burn Center at Sherman Oaks Hospital.

Hernandez, who remains hospitalized at the burn center, was visited by her son, who suffered massive head injuries in the crash, as he was being transferred from Santa Barbara's Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital to Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center in Downey for rehabilitation.

Another son, Javier, 18, was killed when a van carrying him, his mother, his brother, and nine others was hit by a pickup truck with three occupants. Eight of the van's occupants and the three people in the truck died.

"I've lost one but you're still here," Hernandez said between sobs as she reached out to touch Martin. "I'm happy to see my son."

Martin sat quietly by his mother, at times reaching over to touch her. He could not remember the fiery crash that left him comatose for two weeks.

As his mother spoke about returning to Acatzingo, Mexico, to see relatives, Martin nodded in agreement.

"We must recover and then go back to see our family," said Hernandez, who was in a wheelchair because of her injuries.

Linda Garcia, a child development specialist at the burn center, said the meeting may help both recover.

"It's an emotional day," Garcia said. "I think it's important for her healing. I think it's important for his healing. Even though they're going to be apart, they have connected."

Janet O'Neill, a spokeswoman for Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital, said Martin was removed from the intensive care unit Sept. 25. How long his rehabilitation would take was unknown, she said.

"He has improved since he was first admitted," O'Neill said. "He was walking around with the help of staff. He did have a very bad injury."

Larry Weinberg, a spokesman for the burn center, said Rosa Hernandez is expected to stay in the center at least two more weeks. She has undergone five operations and may require more surgery on her burns, he said.

Weinberg said the burn center has received more than $20,000 from well-wishers hoping to help Hernandez and the families of the other crash victims. Plans are underway to distribute the money to the various families, he said.

Garcia said public interest in the crash would bring some relief to the victims or their families.

"They have a long road ahead of them," she said.

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