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Mother Calls for Help to Find Missing Son

LCT Staff
Posted on November 5, 2008

OAKLAND, Calif. — An Oakland woman whose husband drowned and nine-month-old son went missing in three feet of rushing canal waters after a weekend car accident pleaded Monday for a boost in the official search for her baby.

Mary Uaisele was riding in a Chevy pickup truck with her husband Petelo Uaisele, 19, her infant son, John, and several other family members on Hegenberger Road when a limousine clipped the back of the truck about 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The truck fell about 25 feet to land upside down in three feet of water running through the concrete canal below.

"I'm not going to give up for anything," Uaisele said, pausing a few minutes at Damon Slough, a focal point in the search. "I'm finding my son."

Dozens of people joined the search, many of them friends and family of Uaiseles, and some of them complete strangers.

"I'd call them friends, anyway," Uaisele said, expressing her gratitude for the help. She said she was glad officials had done some searching but called on them to sustain and consider expanding their efforts.

Local fire and sheriff's office search teams scoured the surrounding waters until nearly 1:00 a.m. Sunday, when conditions made an effective search impossible. They returned for all-day searches Sunday and Monday. Officials called it "uncertain" whether the official search would resume Tuesday.

Uaisele disputed early reports that her son was not restrained in the car at the time of the accident. She said he was buckled in and was swept away when somebody tried to free him after the crash. Her neck had fractured, however, and she could not see who had tried to save him.

As police and firefighters tried to rescue the truck's passengers, water rushed fast enough through the canal to stagger one police officer and drag down a firefighter who required help from two men to regain his footing.

But investigators said at least one other passenger in the truck reported seeing the infant unrestrained.

Search teams recovered a car seat, purse and clothing along the Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline late Sunday, where tides apparently carried them after the accident.

The six-seat truck with four adults and three children riding in it, was on the way to an East Oakland home after the group went shopping at Wal-Mart, police said. A limousine headed to the Madonna concert at Oracle Arena clipped the truck's left rear while trying to merge into a lane to make a turn at Hamilton Street.

The impact sent the truck back across lanes of traffic, and it may have rolled once before going through a fence and landing upside down in three feet of running water in the canal, said Oakland police traffic Officer Tim Dolan.

The accident's survivors were taken to a hospital and listed in stable condition. None of the six people in the limousine was injured, police said.

Police have ruled out drugs, alcohol, and speeding as factors in the accident, but they continue to investigate the crash as those involved could face charges as serious as vehicular manslaughter, police spokesman Officer Jeff Thomason said. Nobody involved is in custody now, he said.

Source: Oakland Tribune

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