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Helping boy came first,says illegal immigrant

Fifty miles from Tucson, a crash survivor diverts a migrant's quest.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published November 29, 2007


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PHOENIX - An illegal immigrant who gave up his long walk into the United States to help a boy whose mother was killed in a van crash in the desert said Wednesday that he never thought of leaving the child.

"I am a father of four children. For that, I stayed," Manuel Jesus Cordova Soberanes said in Spanish from his home in the Mexican state of Sonora. "I never could have left him. Never."

Authorities said Cordova may have saved the life of 9-year-old Christopher Buztheitner, whose mother was killed when their van ran off a cliff in a remote area north of the Mexican border on Thanksgiving Day.

A spokeswoman for the Mexican consulate in Nogales said the office is working to obtain a short-term visa for Cordova so he can come to Arizona and be recognized for his actions.

The 26-year-old bricklayer was two days into his walk and about 50 miles from Tucson when he saw the boy, who had walked away from the crash.

From his home in Magdalena de Kino, Cordova said Christopher had scrapes on his leg and was dressed in shorts despite the desert cold. He had his dog with him.

Neither Cordova nor Christopher spoke the other's language, but the boy took the migrant to the edge of a canyon and showed him the accident site.

Authorities said Christopher and his mother, 45-year-old Dawn Alice Tomko, had been in the area camping. Tomko was driving on a U.S. Forest Service road when she lost control of the van, which landed 300 feet from the road.

"I felt frustrated and sad because I couldn't do anything for the mother," Cordova said.

The boy was distraught but did not cry, he said. He gave him the sweater he was wearing and found chocolate and cookies in the van to feed him. He built a fire, and the two hunkered down. The boy slept most of the night; Cordova tended the fire.

Fourteen hours later, a group of hunters found the pair and called for help. U.S. Border Patrol agents took Cordova into custody, and Christopher was flown to a hospital in Tucson.

Christopher was reunited with family over the weekend.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada said Cordova is "very special and compassionate" and may have saved the boy's life.

Adriana Hoyos Rodriguez, the mayor of Magdalena de Kino, called Cordova a hero. "He left everything to save that boy."

[Last modified November 29, 2007, 02:37:04]


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