Comatose Patient's 16-Year Mystery Is Solved

Young man from Mexico lay unidentified in a coma all that time
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 5, 2016 3:54 PM CST
Updated Dec 10, 2016 5:10 PM CST
Comatose Patient's 16-Year Mystery Is Solved

Nobody's exactly sure how it came to be—maybe it was related to a route number or perhaps to the auto shop that handled the accident—but a comatose patient lying in a hospital bed in California came to be legally identified as Sixty-Six Garage. His caretakers didn't like it, because they felt it belittled his situation, explains a feature in the California Sunday Magazine. That situation, however, was short on essential details: The only thing authorities knew about the young man is that he sustained a serious head injury when a truck with immigrants from Mexico crashed on the US side of the border. He wound up in a San Diego hospital and then in a nursing home in Coronado—and he lay there for 16 years known officially as Sixty-Six Garage.

Over the years, the quest to identify the silent man slowly gained steam, thanks largely to a woman—a total stranger—who learned of his fate while visiting one of her own relatives in the hospital and made it her mission to see him reunited with his family. As she spread the word, thousands of Mexican families reached out in the hope that the man might be their missing son, brother, or cousin. (Members of one family were certain of it until DNA tests proved otherwise.) Finally, the mystery was solved when the case gained so much attention that "people with power" wanted it solved, writes Brooke Jarvis. Border Control investigators took the man's fingerprints and found a match with a young man picked up a few months before the accident. He'd "been in the system all along." He has a name now, though the family requests privacy. Click for the full, fascinating story, which looks at the surprisingly large part of the internet devoted to families searching for missing immigrants. (More Longform stories.)

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