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Not Dead Yet: Woman Found Breathing Inside Morgue Freezer In South Africa

Jul 05, 2018 05:32 PM EDT
The Distress Alert ambulance service is being investigated after one woman who has been declared dead was found alive in the freezer.
(Photo : P.J.L Laurens | Wikimedia Commons)

A car crash victim pronounced dead by paramedics was found breathing and still alive inside a South Africa morgue freezer.

Three out of four passengers in a car crash were found dead at the scene with the fourth one conscious and walking around. The deceased victims were whisked to a morgue in Carletonville, Gauteng province, where they were placed inside freezers.

Except, not all of them were actually dead.

Found Alive In A Freezer

According to Times Live, paramedics from the private ambulance service Distress Alert declared the woman dead after a car accident that killed two others.

Hours later at the Carletonville mortuary, an employee checked up on the bodies and discovered one was breathing and unmistakably alive.

Lesemang Matuka, a spokesperson for the Gauteng provincial health department, tells New York Times that the patient is still in the hospital and in critical condition, as of Monday, July 2.

Seeking Answers

A family member tells BBC that while the family is in shock and will not talk unless those who are involved are present as well. However, they are asking for answers.

"The issue is that we need answers, that's all we want and we don't have any clarity now," he says.

The Gauteng health department has already launched an investigation of Distress Alert over the incident.

Meanwhile, Distress Alert is also trying to make sense of what happened, saying that their paramedics or tools don't seem to be at fault.

"Equipment used to determine life showed no form of life on the woman," Gerrit Bradnick, Distress Alert operations manager, tells Times Live. "This did not happen because our paramedics are not properly trained. There is no proof of any negligence by our crew."

In a separate interview with New York Times, Bradnick emphasized the company's devastation over the mistaken declaration, adding that their job is to keep people alive.

"If there was any indication she was still alive, we would have treated her," he says. "This has been extremely traumatic for us."

The incident does raise the issue of privately run ambulance services in South Africa, where businesses have to be registered, but aren't regulated outside of Western Cape.

Mistaking Dead For Alive

This is not the first time someone has been mistakenly declared dead.

Just last January, a prisoner in northern Spain was certified dead by three doctors and already prepped for post-mortem examination. In this case, his body already had autopsy markings to guide the doctors in opening him up, BBC reports.

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