Vacationing Accountant Was Leaving for Home : Huntington Beach Man Died in Earthquake

Times Staff Writer

A Huntington Beach accountant who was “literally walking out” of his hotel to return home from Mexico City when the earthquake occurred there Sept. 19 has been identified as one of nine Americans killed by the quake, a close friend of the victim said Sunday.

Emery Takacs, 52, died when the Hotel Principado, where he had been staying, collapsed during the devastating earthquake on Sept. 19. More than 4,600 people were killed in Mexico City in that quake and another jolt the next day, and more than 1,000 people are reported missing.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jaime Corral, a close friend of Takacs, said he flew to Mexico City last week to confirm his friend’s death. The judge was at Takacs’ residence at 18732 Goodwin Lane on Sunday helping Takacs’ only survivor, his sister Eva Braunstein, deal with the victim’s personal effects.

Corral said Takacs, who owned Emery’s Tax Service in Huntington Beach, had been in Mexico City on vacation for one week when he was killed by the earthquake.

“He was literally walking out of the hotel to fly home. He had his suitcase in his hand,” Corral said. “We know this because a Mexican friend of ours was with him. (The friend) and Emery were in the lobby (when the earthquake hit).


“Our Mexican friend yelled for Emery, but he couldn’t see him.”

Corral said the Mexican friend was buried underneath the rubble but managed to dig himself out. The friend related the details of the incident to Corral when he arrived in Mexico City last week, the judge said.

Corral said Takacs’ body was not uncovered until last Monday night, four days after the first earthquake.

“They found no identification on him, so they buried him as an unknown,” Corral said. “We later found his suitcase with papers (identifying Takacs). We also went to the morgue with pictures, and we finally determined exactly where he was buried.”

Corral said he and Takacs’ sister are trying to have the body cremated so that the ashes can be sent back to the United States.

“This will take time, but we are working on this with the (U.S.) Embassy. We will present a positive identification and a death certificate to the funeral home down there before the body can be exhumed,” Corral said. “But that will take a while.”

Takacs was one of four Americans identified by the U.S. Embassy on Saturday as victims of the quake, raising the total number of U.S. citizens killed to nine. Twenty-four Americans are missing.