Filiberto “Fili” Samaniego, an immigrant from Durango, Mexico, lost his life in seconds, when crossing a street in Winnetka, a neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, a young driver of a car ran over him and fled the place.
Now his friends are asking the Los Angeles community to help pay for his funeral costs and repatriate his body to Mexico.
For donations visit the GoFundMe site: https://gf.me/v/c/v89r/filiberto-jesus-samaniego-funeral-expenses
Carmen Chávez, a friend of the family of “Fili” as he was known among friends and relatives, says that he started the fundraising campaign because he has no relatives in Los Angeles, nor anyone to help him, apart from the fact that the tragedy presented unexpectedly.
“Fili” was 60 years old when he was crossing Winnetka Street at the corner of Leadwell Street, around 6:20 p.m. on January 17, when a vehicle struck him.
Carmen explains that the driver did not stop or stop to help Fili. “It was what English is known as hit and run (hit and run).”
A police detective would later inform them that a second and third vehicle also hit Fili, but that it was the first driver who took her life.
“We were also informed that it was a young man who ran over him; and on the recommendation of his parents, he returned minutes later to the scene to tell the police that he had been the cause, and they took him into custody.
“We have not known more what happened to the boy. Only they charged him, but he was not under the influence of drugs and alcohol and he was cooperating with the police. We would like to know what happened, why he ran over and killed Fili”.
Carmen says they didn’t find out about Fili’s death until a week later. Her father was a very close friend of his; They communicated daily, but she began to notice that he called her on the phone and did not call her back.
“He was working in a restaurant kitchen, and his co-workers started to worry that he didn’t show up to work. It was never missing. The manager of the building where he lived had not seen him arrive either. That’s where we all started to get upset.”
They called the police, the hospitals and the jail, but nobody knew anything.
“At first we wanted to think that maybe he was out there having a good time.”
The Hollywood police, which is the area where Fili lived, refused to report him missing until they verified that he was not in his apartment, but he was not there.
In the end, already desperate, Carmen says that they called the Los Angeles Morgue as a last resort, where they were informed that Fili had been dead since Monday, January 17. When they found him it was already January 23.
Carmen says that although Fili’s relationship was with her parents, she was very fond of him.
“He was a very good person, very kind, helpful, very peaceful, concerned about his brothers and nephews in Mexico. He was always very generous with them. Now that my dad got sick, he was supporting him, taking care of him. I am very grateful to him for all this he did for my parents.”
He says that he in turn considered them his family, and they were countrymen from Durango.
Another detail about Fili is that he was very Catholic, a man of great faith who collected rosaries.
“When my aunt went to collect his things, they found the rosary he always carried with him, around his neck. She went to mass every Sunday, she was in a prayer group at a church in Hollywood.”
But he was also a super fan of the Mexican soccer team Las Chivas, and had a collection of at least 37 jerseys.
Carmen says it was very sad to break the news to her parents in Mexico.
“We spoke to one of the brothers, who was already in charge of notifying them. Of his 13 children, 5 have already died, two of them died in infancy; and sadly another son also died like Fili, run over here in the United States, only he was hit while he was riding his bicycle. Fili was the oldest of the brothers.”
Added to the pain of his death is the urgency of raising funds to bury him and transfer him to Mexico.
“We started the collection because the funeral home charges us $11,000, not including the transfer of the body to Mexico. They gave us until February 10 to pay them,” says Carmen, sad and worried about giving Fili a Christian burial and farewell.
It should be said that Fili emigrated to Los Angeles 41 years ago, and her wish was always to reunite with her loved ones in her hometown of Guatimapé in the state of Durango in northwestern Mexico.
Requests for repatriation of bodies increase
The protection consul of the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles, Juan Carlos Rodríguez, affirms that due to the covid-19 pandemic, there was an increase in requests for the body repatriation support program.
“In the year 2021, we supported the transfer of 192 remains, whether it was the complete body or the ashes.”
The states to which the most bodies have been repatriated are: Jalisco, Michoacán, Mexico City, the state of Mexico and Aguascalientes.
“Almost all the transfers have been of older adults.”
It clarifies that in order to introduce mortal remains into Mexico, it is necessary to process certain documents at the consulates, a procedure that is normally handled by funeral homes.
“In the case of ashes, there is the possibility that a sanitary permit will be issued to legally import them into Mexico. Each airline has different requirements in terms of carrying them in the cabin or documenting them.”
The Mexican consul notes that in 2020, they sent 187 remains to Mexico.
“It’s a high number.”
And it specifies that they observed an increase of 35% in telephone calls with requests for information on the procedures to repatriate bodies or remains to Mexico.
He notes that not all people call because they need financial support for the transfer of the bodies, but only assistance with the repatriation procedures.
However, of the 379 bodies that have been repatriated to Mexico in the two years of the pandemic, some people did receive financial support.