Says Man Who Rescued Boy: 'I Never Could Have Left Him'

Associated Press
Thursday, November 29, 2007

PHOENIX, Nov. 28 -- 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 Christopher Buztheitner, 9, whose mother was killed when their van ran off a cliff in a remote area north of the Mexican border on Thanksgiving Day.

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

In a telephone interview from his home in Magdalena de Kino, Cordova said that the boy had scrapes on his leg and was dressed in shorts despite the desert cold. The boy had his dog with him and was holding a side mirror from the van.

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 the boy and his mother, Dawn Alice Tomko, 45, had been in the area camping. Tomko was driving on a U.S. Forest Service road when she lost control of the van.

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

He then built a bonfire. Fourteen hours later, a group of hunters found the pair and called for help. Christopher was reunited with family over the weekend.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company