M.E. takes 9/11 officer's body from wake

March 30, 2011 2:42:44 PM PDT
Morgue workers arrived and removed the body of a former NYPD officer as family members mourned him.

It happened right before his memorial service.

48-year-old George Wong died after a two-year cancer battle.

This former police officer, like so many others, spent countless hours at ground zero after 9/11.

His friends say that he believed the cancer that eventually took his life was linked to ground zero.

Carried by a police honor guard, as other officers saluted his memory, the body of former Officer George Wong was taken from the wake where only days earlier his family says that solemn ceremony was interrupted when the medical examiner sought to take the body for an autopsy.

"She was really upset because you took the body again," said Mei Sin Wong, the officer's mother.

Family, friends and fellow officers had gathered to pay their respects when they say the family received the medical examiner's call, and their reaction was one of shock.

"Can you imagine the mother grieving the loss of her son when all of a sudden they want the body back because they disagree with the cause of death?" said Wellington Chen, of the Chinatown Partnership.

Friends say Wong put up a valiant fight against cancer, only to die from it.

Health Department officials reportedly spotting a reference to "9/11 toxic exposure" on his death certificate raised questions.

Since the death was not natural, Health Department officials say the medical examiner needed to perform an autopsy.

"They did not do an autopsy, just a visual check. The family did not want an autopsy and I think the medical examiner is a bit perplexed because they seemed to be working well with the family," Mayor Bloomberg said.

But others say Wong himself believed his illness was linked to the ground zero site.

"He lost weight and that's when he told me he was concerned about his health and he thinks it was due to being exposed to 9/11 toxins," said Franklin Cosom, Wong's former partner.

After George retired, his former partner Franklin Cosom remembers seeing a much different man than he used to know.

City health officials say any relationship between exposure and emerging illnesses, such as cancer, is unknown though it is being studied.

George Wong's family through a translator though did not want to discuss that.

But as Franklin Cosom visited his dying partner near the end, he remembers him as an angel.

"He was concerned that he wouldn't get into heaven. I'm like are you kidding me, they are going to kick the gates wide open for you man, are you kidding me?" Cosom said.