"Ninety minutes of my life I'll never get back," Geri Esposito said Thursday. "My husband, who is a very strong man, was reduced to a puddle."
The mix-up began when Pennsylvania troopers found Freddy Esposito's driver's license in the hands of one of the men killed in the wreck - 18-year-old Paul Richards of Santa Cruz, Calif.
Geri Esposito said her son and Richards may have shared a fraternity house as students at Stony Brook University. She suspects Freddy, 26, may have lost his ID and never realized it.
Freddy Esposito was not available to comment; his mother said he is still upset at the deaths of his friends.
After police left the Esposito home, calls were made to relatives, and someone was sent to tell Freddy's grandmother.
"It didn't make sense to me, but I was numb," Geri Esposito said of the report that her son had been driving. "Freddy doesn't drive anywhere. He had a car accident once. It was bad. He drives like a little old lady now. You know, he makes sure he follows the letter of the law. It didn't make sense that he was driving, but that's what they said."
Older brother Chris Esposito was just starting his shift in Brooklyn as a New York Police Department officer when he got the call that his brother was dead. He left work and raced to the Bay Shore home he shared with his brother.
"He goes downstairs into his brother's apartment and he saw something on the couch," Geri Esposito recalled. After poking the lump a couple of times, his brother awoke from under the blanket.
"He screamed, `You're dead, you're dead!"' Geri Esposito said of Chris.
And Freddy counters: "I'm sleeping."
The relieved mother said when she finally got to see her son, "I touched him all over and looked at his face," she said. "I said, Thank you for being responsible for being home."' Capt. James Murtin, commanding officer of Pennsylvania State Police's Troop N, acknowledged the mistaken identification and expressed regret for the error, according to Newsday, which first reported the story Thursday.
Murtin said the notification was based on Esposito's license as well as a "general match" with the deceased.