John Doe in San Diego identified after 16 years on life support
An unidentified man, dubbed Sixty-Six Garage, has been on life support in a Coronado nursing home for 15 years.

John Doe in San Diego identified after 16 years on life support

A man previously known only as Sixty-Six Garage has finally been identified after living 16 years in a minimally conscious state.

Health officials and others want families to know what has happened to their loved ones.

The Mexican Consulate in San Diego said Friday the man, who has been living in a Coronado nursing facility,had been reunited with his family.  His name has not been released at the request of relatives.

He arrived at the Villa Coronado Skilled Nursing Facility in the late 1990s after he was injured when a van he was traveling in crashed east of San Diego. Some people familiar with the situation believe he might have been attempting to cross into the U.S. Officials assigned him the name of Sixty-Six Garage after the accident.

It’s unclear what will happen to him now. In 2014, government officials told inewsource state law allows for California to keep paying for undocumented residents’ long-term care.

The man was identified by an eclectic alliance of activist groups, Mexican and U.S. government officials and staff from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. They were brought together by Enrique Morones, founder of the advocacy organization Border Angels, after inewsource first reported on Garage’s condition in February 2015.

Morones told inewsource that he traveled to Washington to talk to Michael Fisher, the head of the U.S. Border Patrol at the time, as well as to Mexico City to talk to government officials there.

“The help of Mike Fisher in Washington, D.C. was crucial,” Morones said.

Since those first stories, more than a dozen families have come forward, hoping that the man in long-term care was their lost brother or son. They asked about identifying birthmarks, or sent old photos to compare with the young man at Villa Coronado.

Eventually, a Border Patrol forensic team used biometric measurements, such as fingerprints and facial scans, to track down a potential relative and DNA samples were sent for testing.

On Friday, the consulate called Morones and told him, “‘We know who it is, and it’s the person that we suspected it was,’” he said.

“I was so overjoyed and I thought this is fantastic.  My whole purpose was just to get the family to see their relative — son, brother, whatever the case may be — (and) know he’s alive.”

inewsource first profiled Sixty-Six Garage as part of “An Impossible Choice,” an investigation into special life support units — like Villa Coronado — throughout California. That investigation found more than 4,000 people living in those facilities, including eight whose identity was unknown.

Care for Sixty-Six Garage and other individuals in similar situations costs Medi-Cal, California’s health insurance program for the poor and disabled, about $700 a day.

Sixty-Six Garage, estimated to be in his 30s, is on a ventilator and cannot speak or respond to his environment.

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About Leonardo Castañeda:

Leonardo Castañeda
Leonardo Castañeda is a reporter and economic analyst for inewsource. To contact him with tips, suggestions or corrections, please email leocastaneda [at] inewsource [dot] org.