Family works to get body of ODU student from Peru

7/18/2014, 9:18 a.m.

WTKR - A mother’s grief over her dead son has been compounded by the fact his body is still thousands of miles away.

“I’m okay, then I’m not okay, I’m okay, then I’m not okay, then I’m angry, frustrated, trying to call the world, trying to get him home and I’m getting all these different stories,” said Richell Dabney, who has been fighting the Peruvian government for two days, ever since she learned of her son’s death.

Damion Wilkins, a 2012 Landstown High School graduate and ODU Biology/Pre-Med student, traveled to the South American country on a summer medical mission trip.

“When I hugged my baby at the airport, there was no way I was going to believe that’s the last time I was going to see my baby alive,” said Dabney.

His professor called Tuesday night, saying Damion suffered a heart attack while visiting remote villages in the Peruvian jungle.

“Damion’s leg got numb, he fell out, they gave him CPR for over an hour, but he was gone,” said Dabney. “Why? We have no clue, why would you have a heart attack at 19?”

With very few answers, this mother only wanted one thing.

“I’m thinking just to get my baby home. I’m thinking I don’t know what happened, I just want my baby,” said Dabney.

In trying to get Damion’s body back to the United States, though, the family ran into mountains of red tape with the Peruvian government.

“They are saying the paperwork will take 5-7 business days, they don’t work on the weekends,” said Dabney. “That is my biggest fear, that I won’t be able to see my baby. That we will have to do a closed casket, because of the condition of his body by the time he actually gets here,” said Dabney.

The grieving mom contacted NewsChannel 3 in the Hampton Roads.

“You were the first person, and you’re here,” said Dabney. “You contacted Senator Kaine’s office, and they called me. They were going see what they could get done, what they could do to move it along.”

Not only did Senator Tim Kaine jump on board, NewsChannel 3 contacted Senator Mark Warner and Congressman Scott Rigell, and their offices also offered to call the State Department and put pressure on Peruvian officials.

Hopefully, in the end, this mom will be reunited with her son.

“When I see my baby, it’s going to be hard, but at least I get closure, at least I get to say goodbye.”