By Dustin Brown
The remains of a Long Island City firefighter who died in the collapse of the World Trade Center were mistakenly misidentified as those of a colleague from Rochdale Village, officials from the medical examiner’s office told the New York Times this week.
The body of Christopher Santora, a rookie firefighter with Engine Co. 54 in Manhattan, was pulled from the rubble of the World Trade Center two days after its Sept. 11 collapse.
But doctors erroneously identified him as Jose Guadalupe, a colleague at Engine Co. 54, due to a rare neck condition both men shared.
The body was then buried after an Oct. 1 service for Guadalupe in St. Albans attended by hundreds of firefighters, family and friends.
Santora’s corpse was to be disinterred Wednesday, The New York Times reported Wednesday. A memorial service that had already been planned for him in Long Island City Saturday will now be a funeral.
Doctors based their identification on neck X-rays of Guadalupe which showed he had a congenital anomaly in two adjacent vertebrae of his neck that matched the body, The Times reported.
DNA tests conducted on samples taken from the bodies and materials supplied by the families — like toothbrushes and hair combs — revealed the identification mixup this week, according to The Times.
“It’s an error,” city Medical Examiner’s Office spokeswoman Ellen Borakove told The Times. “It’s not something that we expect, but we did it and we have to rectify it.”
Other coincidences also contributed to the mixup, The Times reported. Having discovered the body near the fire truck, rescuers believed they had found the company’s chauffeur — which would have been Guadalupe. Meanwhile, both men wore a flat gold chain around their necks.
Santora, 24, the son of retired Fire Chief Alexander Santora, was a rookie firefighter who used to complain that he never got to see a “big fire,” his sister Kathleen Santora said shortly after he was missing in the Sept. 11 attack.
He graduated from Bayside HS and lived with his parents and siblings in Long Island City.
He will be buried following an 11 a.m. funeral service Saturday at the Church of St. Rita, 36-25 11th St. in Long Island City.
Guadalupe, 37, a graduate of August Martin HS in South Jamaica, lived most of his life in Rochdale Village. He is survived by his wife, Elise, his mother, Rowena, and a large extended family.
Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.