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Chilean earthquake helps Apex woman find siblings

Posted February 24, 2012
Updated February 25, 2012

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— An Apex woman who began searching for her biological mother and family two years ago after a devastating earthquake in Chile reconnected this week with the third sibling she's been able to locate.

Jeanine LaDue, 21, was born in Antofagasta, Chile, but was adopted by an American family when she was 3 months old.

When the 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck her native country in February 2010, killing more than 500 people, LaDue's first thoughts were on the biological family she had never met.

She scoured websites for locating quake survivors and victims, but weeks of searching turned up nothing. Then, a friend with a connection in law enforcement in Chile tracked down her brother and sister.

Like her, they had been adopted but were still living in Chile.

This week, LaDue learned she had another sister.

"It's definitely exciting. As soon as I found out, I started crying," she said. "It's just overwhelming."

Ellena Gaito was also adopted and now lives in Virginia. She was searching the Internet for her mother's name and found the WRAL News story on LaDue.

"It was probably the most epic moment in my life," Gaito said in a telephone interview. Ellena Gaito, Jeanine LaDue's sister Adopted woman finds third sibling after earthquake

They compared the identification number and signature of their birth mother, who died in 1998, on their adoption certificates and saw they were a perfect match.

The sisters then talked on the phone, connected on Facebook and immediately found many similarities.

"It was so weird. We like the same things; we don't like the same things," LaDue said.

"She talks like me, and I used to look like (her) in high school," Gaito said.

Gaito plans to travel to North Carolina next week so the sisters can reunite. Their brother and other sister are working on a plan to get everyone back together for a visit.

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  • michellepoole2 Feb 24, 2012

    That is really awesome!