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Return of Crash Victims' Bodies to Mexico Sought

September 17, 1997|EFRAIN HERNANDEZ JR. | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SHERMAN OAKS — Numb and grief-stricken, the relatives of a woman who survived a fiery highway crash that killed 11 people near Lompoc last week asked for help Tuesday in raising money to return the bodies of eight relatives and friends to their Mexican hometowns.

Family and friends so far have raised a little more than half of the estimated $12,700 needed to transport the bodies back to their villages in the state of Puebla, Mexico, relatives said.

They made their plea for help at the Grossman Burn Center at Sherman Oaks Hospital, where Rosa Hernandez, 47, of Canoga Park is recovering from burns suffered in the crash.

"We're trying to raise funds . . . to send the eight bodies back," said Lauro Nabor Camacho, Hernandez's cousin. "It was a terrible accident."

Camacho and Hernandez's nephew, Francisco Rosas Barrales, were joined by Hernandez's 5-year-old daughter, Mariana, who could only rub tears from her eyes when asked about the accident.

The two men told how devastated the family was by the crash. One of Hernandez's sons, 16-year-old Javier Camacho, was killed and another son, Martin Camacho, 14, was left in critical condition with massive head injuries at Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital, they said.

"The future is to try to help the mother and move ahead," Camacho said.

Added Barrales: "Rosa asked that we take care of her daughter. That's what we're doing."

Dr. A. Richard Grossman and Dr. Michel Brones said Hernandez was recovering from burns to about 40% of her body.

On Monday, doctors at the center upgraded Hernandez's condition from critical to serious after more than three hours of surgery. Dead and dying tissue was removed from her body and replaced with cadaver skin. Doctors said more surgery was expected Friday, when doctors may graft healthy skin from her body onto the burned areas.

Police said the crash between a Ford pickup truck with three occupants and the Chevrolet van carrying 12 people occurred about 10 p.m. Sept. 9. All three people in the pickup and eight people in the van were killed. Police said Friday that tests showed both drivers had traces of drugs in their systems.

California Highway Patrol Officer James Everly said Tuesday the cause of the accident remained under investigation. Although it was initially believed that the van had carried kerosene that ignited the wreckage, he said there was no kerosene.

The van's occupants had spent the day selling roasted corn in Lompoc. They had moved to Canoga Park from Mexico less than two months ago.

Authorities said the pickup driver, Michael Anthony Bucci, 42, of Lompoc, had cocaine, opiates and marijuana in his system, and the van driver, Julio Rosa Camacho, 20, had cocaine in his system.

Besides Bucci, the occupants of the pickup were his girlfriend, Charlotte Gwynn Wright, 29, of Lompoc, and Joseph T. Navarro, 28, who authorities said lived in Woodland Hills but had relatives in the Lompoc area.

In addition to Julio and Javier Camacho, authorities said those killed in the van were Paulino Serrano Camacho, 15; Ambrosio Martinez Vivanco, 15; Mauro Martinez Salazar, 16; Antonio Rosa Camacho, 18; Elisa Lopez De La Rosa, 33, Eduardo Perez, 33.

Besides Hernandez and her son, Martin Camacho, van passengers who survived the crash were Poli Herrera, 20, who suffered scratches and was released the next day from Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital, and David Perez, 31, who was being treated for internal injuries at Lompoc District Hospital

Donations may be sent to the Rosa Hernandez Fund, Sherman Oaks Hospital Foundation, Sherman Oaks Hospital, 4929 Van Nuys Blvd., Sherman Oaks 91403.

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