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Florida teens misidentified after deadly car crash: "Just heart-dropping"

Florida teens misidentified after death
Authorities mix-up Florida teens’ identities after car crash deaths 03:36

The bodies of two Florida teenagers were misidentified after they were killed in a car crash near Pensacola last July. The mistake wasn't caught until just before a wake, and not until after organs had been taken from the wrong body.

Now the families of 15-year-old Samara Cooks and 18-year-old Deleigha Gibson are suing Florida Highway Patrol, the county medical examiner's office and two funeral homes.

"I'm not at peace. I'm not at peace. I feel like I haven't had a chance to mourn," said Ranada Cooks, Samara's mother.

Ranada had asked the funeral home to see her daughter before her wake. 

"That's when I noticed that it was not Samara and it was a mix-up," she told CBS News correspondent Manuel Bojorquez in an exclusive interview. "I was thinking, 'Well maybe there's a chance that she's still alive.'"

It gave her a little hope, she said, until the mix-up was discovered.

Deleigha's parents, Tammy and Demetrius Gibson, claim the director at another funeral home tried to switch the bodies back without their knowing.

"Tracy was like, 'I need to talk to y'all,' and then she called us into the office and told us that the bodies were switched," Tammy said.

Demetrius said hearing that was "just heart-dropping."

According to John Givens, an attorney with The Cochran Firm, the families' lawsuits allege that Florida Highway Patrol officers "incorrectly tagged the victims" at the crash site, Escambia County's former medical examiner "did not enforce appropriate policies and procedures" and the medical examiner's office "extracted several organs from the body of Samara Cooks, who was not an organ donor."

Both families also claim the county medical examiner told them it was against policy to view the bodies.

"I don't sleep. I think about what happened or I try to put the puzzles together," Ranada Cooks said.

Tammy and Demetrius Gibson said they don't have any closure.

"And didn't get the joy of laying her to rest the way we really wanted to," Demetrius said.

In a statement to CBS news, the Florida Highway Patrol said in part, "Due to the nature of this crash involving multiple ejections, positive identifications at the scene were not made."

Now, the parents say they won't stop pushing for more answers.

"I don't want this to ever happen to any other parents. No one should go through this," Ranada Cooks said.

The Florida Highway Patrol said a further review of the case is ongoing to verify additional information. The medical examiner's office told CBS News, "Our sympathies and support remain with the families." The funeral homes did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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