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WTC firefighters' remains, burials mixed up

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Two months after his burial, Christopher Santora -- one of 15 New York City firefighters from Engine Company 54 killed in the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center -- will finally get his own funeral this weekend.

Santora's body was interred in an October 1 funeral service for co-worker Jose Guadalupe, 37 -- a complicated case of mistaken identity, according to the city medical examiner. Removed from Guadalupe's burial plot Wednesday, Santora's funeral and burial will now occur Saturday in Long Island.

Authorities brought the body of Santora, 23, to the morgue two days after the attacks. The victim could not be identified by sight or fingerprints, a medical examiner's office spokesman told CNN, and Guadalupe's dental records could not be located.

Santora's body was found near the fire truck where Guadalupe, a driver, would likely have been, and other members of Engine Company 54 -- to which both men belonged -- identified the body as Guadalupe.

Families of two New York firefighters killed in the World Trade Center attack now have the correct remains. CNN's Jason Carroll reports (November 29)

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Moreover, both firefighters shared a rare, remarkable physical similarity -- a congenital anomaly in the neck area.

The medical examiner incorrectly identified the victim as Guadalupe 11 days after the remains were found after X-rays showing the abnormality in spinal vertebrae.

On Tuesday, DNA results from the victim then identified as Guadalupe matched a sample from Santora's toothbrush. Authorities corroborated the misidentification after a look at Santora's dental records showed the same pattern and number of missing teeth as that found on the victim.

The case was the first of mistaken identity among 453 World Trade Center victims whose remains have been found and identified by the medical examiner's office -- a fraction of the death count of 3,478, as detailed by New York's Office of Emergency Management.

It also marked another strange twist for Engine Company 54, whose firehouse has become a magnet for tourists in midtown Manhattan's heavily traveled theater district. The station stands as a monument for the fallen 15, its facade adorned by flowers, pictures and messages from around the world.


• Uniformed Firefighter‘s Association of Greater New York

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