New York Daily News

March 30, 2011


 

Family of NYPD cop George Wong who died of cancer rages at city for taking body to disprove 9/11 tie

BY ALISON GENDAR, KATIE NELSON, ADAM LISBERG AND RICH SCHAPIRO
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS

   
  Antonelli/News
  NYPD officers at the funeral of George Wong, who died of gastric cancer.

Facing accusations they carted away the body of a dead cop to prove he didn't die from a 9/11-related illness, city officials claimed Wednesday they're not body snatchers — just bureaucrats.

George Wong, 48, died last Thursday of gastric cancer — and his doctor listed his cause of death as a result of "9/11 toxic exposure."

Mayor Bloomberg said the city was simply following the law when workers snatched the cancer victim's body from a Manhattan funeral home Monday, causing Wong's funeral to be postponed a day.

"When there is a death that the death certificate says is not of natural causes, the medical examiner is required by law to go and to perform whatever they think is appropriate," Bloomberg said.

The mayor defended the move as about 120 mourners packed the Ng Fook Funeral Home in Chinatown on Wednesday to bid farewell to Wong.

Wong's parents sat shoulder to shoulder during the Christian service, staring at their son's open blond wood coffin.

Hanging above it was a white sign with a poignant message in Chinese: "Brotherhood goes deep."

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Bloomberg did not attend the service.

Even before the funeral began, Wong's brother ripped into the city.

"Taking the body was very upsetting to my family," Howard Wong, 40, told the Daily News. "It was disrespect. I don't want this to ever happen to any other family."

Wong's mother, Mei Sin Wong, 73, patted her chest as she said softly, "My heart. It hurts."

George Wong, who spent 20 years on the force before he received a disability retirement in 2006, performed security duties at Ground Zero after the terror attacks, relatives said. He was diagnosed with cancer in November 2009.

After Wong passed away, his hospice doctor, Lyla Correoso, attributed his death to 9/11.

When Health Department officials noticed the determination, they forwarded it to the medical examiner's office, which reviews all deaths not considered natural.

Panicked city workers pulled Wong's body from the funeral home hours after the wake on Monday. They inspected the body, but relatives wouldn't consent to an autopsy. The corpse was returned after the 9/11 reference was removed from the death certificate.

The office will review Wong's medical records and the physical evidence to determine the cause of death.

"This is about the type of death, not the cause of death," City Hall spokesman Jason Post said. "Thecity has honored many fallen heroes who have passed from 9/11-related illness."

Union officials were unmoved.

"This is an unforgivable case of bureaucratic overreaction where legal concerns outweighed compassion for the grieving family of a hero police officer," said Patrick Lynch, head of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.

rschaprio@nydailynews.com