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Families Claim Wrong Crash Victims

August 7, 2002

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BRANDENBURG, Ky. (AP) _ Family members mourning the death of a teenager were ready to say their goodbyes at a funeral home when they discovered that the body in the casket wasn’t his.

Relatives of John D. Grubs Jr., one of two teens involved in a car crash on July 31, learned during the funeral home visit Saturday that it was in fact the other teen, Jeremy Hylemon, who had been killed in the accident.

Meanwhile, Grubs, who suffered critical injuries but survived, was misidentified as Hylemon by the dead teen’s family.

The body at the funeral home would have been cremated if Hylemon’s grandmother hadn’t attended the funeral and recognized her grandson, said Meade County Sheriff’s Deputy William Sego.

The two teens were flown to Louisville after the crash. Hylemon died later that morning at University Hospital.

Grubs’ father and other relatives had identified the dead boy as John Grubs, 16, officials said. Meanwhile, Hylemon’s family identified the injured boy as Jeremy Hylemon, 15, and sat vigil over him for three days, said Ken Marshall, a spokesman for University Hospital.

``People have been asking me how this happened, and I have to tell them, ‘I don’t know,‴ said Richard Siclari, a Jefferson County deputy coroner who escorted Grubs’ family into a room at the hospital where they identified the dead teenager as their son.

``They cried and prayed and said, ’This is John,‴ he said. ``It’s just a terrible case of mistaken identity.″

It was unclear how Grubs was misidentified by Hylemon’s family.

At the funeral held for Grubs with Hylemon’s body, Sego’s stepson, Joe Gatrost, said he looked in the open casket and immediately questioned whether it was Grubs.

``The person in the casket had pierced ears. ... The only reason I had doubts was because John didn’t have his ears pierced.″

On Monday, the Jefferson County coroner’s office positively identified the dead teen as Hylemon using dental records.

The mix-up has dumbfounded officials and hospital employees. The Meade County sheriff, Jefferson County coroner and University Hospital officials all said family members, in their grief, misidentified the victims.

Grubs’ mother, Sandy Schell, who lives in Seatac, Wash., declined comment, as did Stephanie Hylemon, Jeremy Hylemon’s grandmother.

Siclari said Hylemon didn’t have any facial injuries, but when Grubs’ family viewed the body, a cloth covered the top of Hylemon’s head because of a severe head injury.

Meade County Sheriff Joseph Greer, who knows Grubs, said he went to the hospital Sunday to help clear up the confusion and didn’t see any disfiguring injuries to Grubs’ face.

``I knew right away it was John Grubs,″ he said.

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