Body-bagged Woman Still Alive

ByABC News
January 25, 2001, 8:55 AM

A S H L A N D, Mass., Jan. 25 -- Emergency medical technicians thought the39-year-old woman found slumped in a bathtub was dead. So didfuneral director John Matarese until he heard a gurgling noisecoming from the body bag.

"It scared me half to death," Matarese said. "The girl was alive."

Matarese quickly unzipped the body bag and held the woman's mouth open to keep her air passages clear. By the time emergency technicians arrived, she was breathing. She's now hospitalized in good condition.

About 3½ hours before Matarese's discovery Saturday, the woman had been found unconscious in cold water in her bathtub. She apparently overdosed on pills, police said.

Police officers and emergency medical technicians were unable to detect any signs of life. Police concluded she was an apparent suicide victim and her body was taken to Matarese's funeral home.

"From everybody's observation, more time had elapsed than would have allowed resuscitation," Town Administrator Dexter Blois said.

The state Department of Public Health is investigating to determine whether emergency workers acted properly.

"The fact that they didn't take her to the hospital, just assumed she was dead, is the big mistake," said Dr. Murray Hamlet, a hypothermia resuscitation expert. "People have to understand that cold, stiff, blue people can be resuscitated."