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'Dead' Woman Found Alive After Medical Mix-Up

Abby Guerra

Abby Guerra, an Arizona high school soccer star, was reported to have been killed in a car crash but later found injured but alive in a nearby hospital. (MyFoxPhoenix.com)

A young Arizona woman thought killed in a car accident last week was found to be alive Saturday in what was described as a medical mix-up, FOX 10 reported.

Abby Guerra, 19, was one of five friends from Ironwood High School in Glendale, Ariz., who were on their way home from California's Disneyland when they crashed July 18.

Guerra's family was told the promising young soccer star died at the scene.

Fellow passenger Tyler Parker, 20, died later in the hospital, but another passenger escaped without serious injuries.

Two others, including 21-year-old Marlena Cantu, were taken to St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix with severe head trauma.

But officials incorrectly identified Guerra at the scene and informed her family of her death -- even though the medical examiner's office had refused to confirm her identity until they could compare her medical records, according to KPHO.com.

That process took nearly a week, with officials blaming a backlog of patients and shortage of doctors for the delay.

Guerra's family was in the process of organizing her funeral when they got word she was still alive.

"I mean, you're ecstatic for one -- I mean, it's a miracle -- but in the same you feel angry, because we mourned all week," Guerra's aunt Dorenda Cisneros told KPHO.com.

Guerra was in critical condition Saturday night with a brain injury, broken back and collapsed lung.

"It's a bad dream, and hopefully it's gonna have a great happy ending. That's what we're praying for so," Cisneros said.

However, the mix-up also had ramifications for family and friends of Cantu, who were keeping a vigil at the bedside of a girl they now know is Guerra.

Colleen Donovan, a lifelong friend of Cantu, never suspected there was a mix-up.

"You're not looking for differences," she told The Arizona Republic. "It didn't look like anyone I'd ever seen."

Donovan said the girl's head was shaved in preparation for brain surgery, her face was completely swollen and the eyes were blackened.

However, there were key differences -- including that Cantu had a scar on her stomach, fewer ear piercings and was a bit taller than Guerra.

Dental records helped make a positive identification because Guerra did not have wisdom teeth while Cantu did, Donovan said, adding that the ordeal was devastating for Cantu's parents.

"Every day they went [to the hospital] having hope that she's living one more day, then to find out it's not her," Donovan said. "And Abby's parents, too. They've gone through all these emotions, and now they find out she's really alive. Abby still has a struggle to survive."

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