Hospital Tells Family 'Dead' Daughter Alive

Days before teen's funeral, hospital admits it misidentified accident victim.

July 25, 2010, 6:55 PM

July 26, 2010 — -- Today was supposed to have been when family and friends gathered for a young woman's funeral after an auto accident in Arizona a week ago. But the plans were made before her family was hit with shocking news: The hospital misidentified the dead. Abby Guerra was still alive but in critical condition.

"We're all angry at the situation," her cousin told ABC News' affiliate ABC15 after the hospital admitted the mix-up this weekend. "We could have been at her side, telling her to fight. It might have given her more strength."

Guerra, 19, was traveling home from Disneyland in California with four friends when the car in which she was riding blew a tire and rolled over. Investigators told Guerra's family that she had died in the accident and that her friend, Marlena Cantu, was fighting for life in the hospital, according to ABC15.

Her injuries were so extensive that no one, including visiting friends and family, realized the opposite was true.

"We all went in [to the hospital room]," friend Colleen Donovan told ABC15. "We were talking to Marlena, thinking it was Marlena. Even Abby's parents went in there. Nobody knew."

After an anxious week hoping their daughter would recover, Cantu's family was notified that she had been dead all along.

For Guerra's family, the news ignited several sometimes contradictory emotions.

"Happy, mad, sad, I mean, you can't explain it," Guerra's aunt, Dorenda Cisneros, said. "It's a lot of different stuff."

Not the First Tragic Mix-Up

Guerra's family is not the first to deal with a tragic mix-up.

In 2006, Whitney Cerak and Laura Van Ryn were returning to their college campus in Indiana when the vehicle they were riding in was hit by a truck.

Van Ryn died and Cerak was in critical condition in the hospital, but because of a mix-up, Cerak's family held a funeral for her while Van Ryn's family kept vigil in the hospital.

That time, it wasn't until five weeks later, when Whitney started to regain consciousness, that both families were told there had been a horrible mistake.

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