California man loses 14 family members in Turkey earthquake

Almost two weeks ago, Bakersfield resident Sherry Jones received a text message from her ex-husband Mervan Ergun informing her that there had been a major earthquake in Turkey and Syria.

Jones, 49, immediately texted him back and asked if anyone had been hurt. Ergun’s entire extended family lived in Turkey, specifically in Hatay province, one of the regions hardest hit by the February 6 magnitude 7.8 quake and its aftershocks.

A few hours later, Ergun, 41, responded and told her his mother, two sisters and a brother had been killed along with their children and spouses.

“I didn’t believe it,” Jones said. “I thought he was playing a terrible joke, and then it quickly became clear that he wasn’t.”

In all, Ergun lost 14 family members, including two aunts and an uncle. Mervan’s 38-year-old brother Mecdi Ergun, Mecdi’s wife and their two children, and his 40-year-old sister Meyse Yalman, her husband and their three children were killed when their homes collapsed during the quake.

Jones is acting as spokesman for Ergun, a Bakersfield resident who is currently in Turkey organizing his relatives’ funeral.

“He said, ‘It would be one thing if it was just one family member and how hard that would be, but losing 11 close family members at once is just almost unbearable,'” Jones said. “I still feel like part of their family to me and they still treat me that way. I can’t believe they’re gone.”

Six women are seated on a sofa

From left: Mervan Ergun’s sisters Munire Yavuz and Meyse Yalman, mother Fatma and sisters Merve Ergun, Miyade Tatar and Mune Ballar.

(Mervan Ergun)

Mervan’s 70-year-old mother Fatma Ergun and 30-year-old sister Merve Ergun, the youngest of 11 siblings in the family, were the primary carers for Mervan’s father, Abdullah Ergun, who has Alzheimer’s, and Mervan’s brother, Mesut Ergun, who is developmentally delayed and blind is.

The four lived together in Antakya, and when the earthquake struck, Mervan’s mother and sister died, while his father and brother survived.

“Mervan’s mom probably dealt with him the best,” Jones said of her former father-in-law. “And now she’s gone and the siblings are trying their best to take care of him.”

A 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck Turkey and Syria on Monday, two weeks after the quake killed tens of thousands and destroyed thousands of buildings in the province.

The latest quake, which was followed by a second 5.8 magnitude tremor and dozens of other aftershocks, killed at least eight people and injured 294.

The center of the recent earthquake was in the city of Defne in the Turkish province of Hatay. Ergun and his surviving relatives were “terrified” of the earthquakes this week but managed to survive them unscathed, Jones said.

After learning of the deaths of his family members, Jones said Ergun was desperate for a way to get to Turkey. He could fly to Istanbul from Los Angeles, but there were no flights from there to southern Turkey. Ergun took the bus part of the way and ended up walking until he was about 30 miles from Antayka when someone picked him up on the street and drove him the rest of the way.

Ergun helped find the bodies of his sister Meyse, her husband and their three children in the rubble of their collapsed home. On Thursday he found the bodies of his brother Mecdi and Mecdi’s wife and two children.

They were buried in the nearby village of Kirancik.

“He said the city smells of death wherever they go,” Jones said. “There are families waiting for rescuers to come and take their missing family members out so they can bury them. Given the state of the buildings and the time that has passed, they have no hope that anyone is alive.”

Jones said she first met Ergun over the internet in 2007 and after speaking online for six months, she traveled to Turkey and they became engaged. They came to the United States in late 2008 and married in early 2009. They lived together in Bakersfield until divorcing in August 2021.

Jones and Ergun share two sons – 13-year-old Grant-Abdullah and 9-year-old Lance. In 2018, the former couple went back to Turkey with their children for vacation.

“They didn’t treat me any differently,” Jones said of her ex-husband’s family. “I am the mother of his children and they will always see me as his wife. They knew we weren’t dating, but they still treated me that way and welcomed me with open arms.”

Jones said Grant-Abdullah took death very hard after recently meeting all of his cousins ​​and extended family members.

“He’s struggling a bit himself because his memories are very fresh and he’s connected to his cousins ​​and grandma and aunts and uncles who are now gone,” Jones said.

Jones has also set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for the family.

Fatma Erdun, Jones said, was a “very strong matriarch” for the family.

“He had a very strong mother and it was difficult to win her over, but as far as I know I managed,” she said. “That meant a lot knowing how picky she was and what she expected of people. It’s hard to believe she’s gone.”

Jones said the family was struggling to process what happened and how they might move forward.

“They’re scared to be in their homes now because what if another earthquake happens?” she said. “It’s a huge loss. They are an extremely close family. That’s one of the things that drew me to Mervan – he was very close to his family.” California man loses 14 family members in Turkey earthquake

Alley Einstein

Alley Einstein is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Alley Einstein joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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