Bodies of two teens misidentified by Florida cops who then harvested the wrong girl's organs, claims lawsuit
The bodies of two Florida teenage girls were misidentified by the Florida Highway Patrol police and medical examiners in a horrifying mix-up that has ended up distressing both the families involved.
After misidentifying the bodies of two teenage girls involved in a car crash, the Florida Highway Patrol, several Escambia County officials and two funeral homes are being sued. As one of the girls was an organ donor and the other was not, there was a mix-up regarding the harvesting of organs. Despite the differences in their age and appearance, their identities were switched when being identified by the police. Gibson had signed up to be an organ donor before her death, but the police instead harvested the organs of Samara who had not agreed to have her organs harvested.
Deleigha ‘Leigha’ Gibson, 18, and Samara Cooks, 15, both died in a crash in the Pensacola area of Florida last July. The two girls along with two of their other friends - Daichunique Lavender, 20, Renee Banks, 18, - were traveling together in a car at about 1:30 am on July 29 when their car veered out of control, hit a utility pole on County Road 95A and slammed into a tree line. Both the girls died on the spot.
Samara's mother discovered the mix-up when she asked a local funeral home to see her daughter's remains before the funeral. She told CBS, "That’s when I noticed that it was not Samara and it was a mix-up." She also said, "I was thinking, 'maybe there’s a chance that she’s still alive.’"
"I’m not at peace. I’m not at peace. I feel like I haven’t had a chance to mourn," she told CBS news.
According to lawyer John Givens, the county medical examiner failed to enforce appropriate procedures, leading Samara's organs to be harvested despite not being a donor. Both families also claim that the county medical examiner told them that it was against policy to view the bodies.
In the lawsuit, the teenagers’ families say cops “incorrectly tagged the victims” and that Escambia County’s former medical examiner “did not enforce appropriate policies and procedures,” according to the outlet. The lawsuits, reports the PNJ, demand jury trials to address the complaints and financial compensation for emotional distress and the loss of "enjoyment of life."
Tammy and Demetrius Gibson, Deleigha's parents, claim that once the mistake had been discovered, the funeral home attempted to switch the bodies before they could find out.
In a statement to CBS News, the Florida Highway Patrol said, "Due to the nature of this crash involving multiple ejections, positive identifications at the scene were not made."
They also said that a further review of the case will be made in order to gain additional information. The funeral homes did not respond to a request for comment.