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Three members of the same family from the Santa Clarita area died from COVID-19 complications after attending a gathering with relatives around Thanksgiving.

Two brothers, 55-year-old James Mercadante and 51-year-old George Mercadante, died hours apart from one another, and their uncle, also named George Mercadante, who was in his 80s, passed away two weeks later.

James and George’s sister, Sarah Mercadante, thinks the virus may have spread during the family gathering, which she did not attend, as the symptoms of all three men started around the same time. Her brothers and uncle were all hospitalized.

“I just kept thinking, ‘We’re strong and healthy, we’re strong and healthy,'” she said. “But no.”

Sarah says she didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to James, who died on Jan. 10, in person.

“He said, ‘God bless you, Sarah, and I love you.’ That was the last thing he said to me,” she said. “I would say, ‘You’re young and healthy. You’re gonna get through it.’ Now I feel awful. He was the one being the most careful and he was the first one to pass away in the family.”

Her other brother George died hours later. Then her uncle died about two weeks later, on Jan. 27.

“There’s no rhyme or reason behind it. It’s cruel. It’s evil,” Sarah said. “You can’t be in the hospital with your loved one when this is going on. It’s gut wrenching.”

James was a lead supervisor at Saugus High School and survived the 2019 mass shooting there. The school posted on Facebook saying that his kind personality and smile will be missed.

His sister says he was an active and strong bicyclist, hang glider and an Army veteran.

“Strong and healthy as an ox. It knocked him out so fast,” Sarah said.

Their brother George had a disability and James cared for him most of his life, she said. 

“He was basically the mind and heart of a child stuck in a grown man’s body,” Sarah explained.

Their uncle George, also an Army veteran, was hospitalized for several weeks before Sarah said she made the difficult decision to take him off life support. She says she fought for him to be treated with non-approved drugs under the Right to Try Act, but it was too late.

“My uncle loved to travel and he was always a spur-of-the-moment, adventurous kind of guy even at 85. And strong as an ox as well,” Sarah said.

Her parents, who are in their 80s, also tested positive for the coronavirus, but they recovered.

“What’s gonna end up killing my dad is burying his two sons and his brother,” she said.

Sarah says her outlook on the virus has changed.

“When you watch three of your loved ones pass away on ventilators and life support right in front of you … Every day I’m dealing with a mix of emotions between grief and anger toward the virus,” she said.

A friend of the Mercadante family set up a GoFundMe page to help with funeral expenses.