Hospital: Severe Injuries Led to ID Mistake

How did a hospital mix up the identities of who survived a horrific car accident?

Late Monday, "Early Show" National Correspondent Hattie Kauffman reported, officials from St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix tried to explain how they mixed up two young women.

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Kauffman said the hospital got it wrong when they originally told family members that Marlena Cantu lived, and her best friend Abby Guerra died.

Suzanne Pfister, of St. Joseph's Medical Center, told reporters, "We interviewed family members that evening and asked for any discernable visual information that could help us make that positive identification."

But on "The Early Show" Tuesday, Abby's aunt Dorenda Cisneros said the family wasn't given the opportunity to identify a body.

She said, "That's one thing that's so upsetting especially when we hear it on TV just like everyone else because we found out about the accident occurred what we're told about 8:30 in the evening and we were told approximately 11:50 that evening that Abby had died. We were never even given the opportunity to see any of the other people. We were never given the opportunity to look at the body. We were never asked any questions. We were just told that she had passed away at the scene. So that's very, very saddening for us because it's not true and had we had the opportunity to look at the bodies or the other people at that time, maybe this could have been avoided."

The hospital claims the young women's severe injuries led to the mistake. But Monday, Frank Cantu, the father of the deceased, said officials actually mixed up the family members.

Frank Cantu said, "Instead of telling Abby's parents, 'OK, your daughter's upstairs,' they told me, 'Your daughter's upstairs.'"

For six days Frank Cantu sat praying at what he thought was his daughter's bedside, only to find out she never survived the crash.

Frank Cantu said, "They brought us into the room and said there's been a tragic error."

It was Marlena's best friend, Abby Guerra, who had survived, even though her parents were told she died. Meanwhile, Frank Cantu's daughter, Marlena, had been tagged Jane Doe, unidentified because of a backlog of bodies. Suddenly, the Cantus are making funeral plans for the daughter who was supposed to be getting back to college.

"During the week, a book came in that she ordered for school," Frank Cantu said.

"Oh gosh, that's tough," Kauffman said.

Frank Cantu now has a mission -- to stop mistakes like this from happening again.

He responded, "My daughter, she was the most precious thing I ever had. Everybody loved her."

Cisneros said on "The Early Show" her family has held a car wash to benefit both Abby and Marlena.

Cisneros said Abby remains in critical condition.

For information on how you can help both the Guerra and Cantu families, please contact Wells Fargo at 602-528-7540.
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