HUNTINGTON PARK, Calif. (KTLA) — A California couple died from the novel coronavirus one day apart, leaving their five children in the care of their older stepsister.
Humberto Ruelas-Rivas, 60, died on Sunday, and his 38-year-old wife, Karina Bonilla, died the next day.
Ruelas-Rivas’ daughter, Maria Ruelas, 35, is now taking care of her five step-siblings, ages 2 to 17, as well as her 30-year-old sister, who was hospitalized with coronavirus and had a stroke.
“Within six days, I lost my father. And within eight hours, I lost my stepmother. And now I have five kids,” said Ruelas. “It’s gonna be a struggle. I don’t have children of my own, and now I know maybe this is the reason why.”
She said her stepmother contracted COVID-19 first, likely from work.
“She went to work, and in less than a week, she started presenting symptoms,” Ruelas said. “She went home, and then my father started getting sick.”
When her father died, she wasn’t able to say goodbye or give him a hug or kiss, she said.
“Even though they’re deceased, the virus is still active in their bodies, so you can’t touch the body,” Ruelas said. “I hope this story doesn’t repeat again. It’s devastating.”
Ruelas is engaged to be married, but she is now planning for a different life and trying to gain legal custody of her siblings.
“I’m happy to do it in the memory of my father,” she said.
Her family has started a GoFundMe page to raise money for funeral and medical expenses.
Ruelas wants people to know that the virus is still deadly even as the state starts to reopen.
“I saw a lot of [people] without masks. That terrified me,” she said. “That virus took my family away.”