According to BBC News, a South African woman who was in a car accident that claimed the lives of two others was taken to Carletonville morgue, in Gauteng province, late Sunday afternoon. Said to have “no sign of life” by the ambulance company, the woman was placed in a refrigerated compartment, but was later discovered by a morgue worker to be very much alive.
How this happened is not completely clear; emergency services who were at the scene said the woman had been involved in a deadly pile-up and her vehicle had rolled, flinging her and two other occupants out of the vehicle. The ambulance company, Direct Alert, claimed they could find no pulse or breath signs in any of the three, and so the living woman (who remains unidentified) was transported to the morgue.
Emergency official Garret Bradnick, who is the operations manager for Direct Alert, told news agencies the mistake did not come about through unprofessionalism on the part of his paramedics, and that they had no idea how it had happened.
“When our ambulance arrived on the scene, we followed all the procedures,” he said. “The crew is absolutely devastated – we’re not in the business of declaring living people dead, we’re in the business of keeping people alive.”
The woman has been transferred to a hospital in Johannesburg for treatment, according to officials. Her family refuses to speak to the media, but demands answers from local officials as to how this could have happened.
This is not the first time a South African morgue has mistakenly housed a live resident. According to ABC News, in 2011 a 60-year-old man suffered an asthma attack and passed out. He awakened 21 hours later on a cold slab in the Johannesburg mortuary, surrounded by dead bodies. When he began to scream, the morgue workers fled, thinking him a ghost. They returned with a full complement of mortuary staff and called an ambulance. Doctors observed him for six hours before declaring him well enough to return to his home.
According to NDTV, in 2016 a 28-year-old man was also pronounced dead at the scene of a car crash, but was discovered by his family alive in the morgue in Phoenix, South Africa, a day later. He was rushed to a hospital but died five hours later. His family blamed the paramedics, saying his life could have been saved with quick action.
In the latest case, Mr. Bradnick maintains, “This did not happen because our paramedics are not properly trained. There is no proof of any negligence by our crew.”
The local health department has launched a probe into the oversight.