Woman Pronounced Dead in Car Crash Found Alive in Mortuary Refrigerator

Technicians discovered the woman to be alive when retrieving her body from the fridge for an autopsy.

via Getty Images

A South African woman pronounced to be dead at the scene of a rollover accident was found to be very much alive, reports the BBC, but not until after being transported to a local morgue and being placed in the freezer.

The bizarre accident began after a woman and two other occupants were thrown from a vehicle amidst a pileup, paramedics arrived at the scene and evaluated those involved in the crash. After assessing the woman, whose name has been withheld, the paramedics reportedly determined that the woman had no signs of life. She was then transported to a local mortuary in Carletonville, Gauteng, located about 50 miles west of Johannesburg, and placed in the refrigerator pending an official autopsy.

Several hours later, technicians from the morgue opened the refrigerator to retrieve the woman's body, but instead they found the woman to be living and organized for her transportation to a local hospital where she is now recovering following the accident which claimed the lives of two others, as well as several hours of going without treatment while she was locked in the cooler. Workers at the mortuary immediately denied any wrongdoing, stating that it wasn't in their job or training to determine death.

“You never expect to open a fridge and find someone in there alive," a source reportedly told a local newspaper, “Can you imagine if we had begun the autopsy and killed her.”

The local government's health department is now investigating the paramedic services for possible misconduct. Much like the mortuary technicians, the paramedics and their agency deny responsibility for misreporting the woman's death.

"All the right checks were done — breathing, pulse — so the patient was declared deceased," said Gerrit Bradnick, operations manager at the responding distress alert facility. He later added, "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 family of the woman is reasonably upset as a result of the conundrum, is demanding answers and refusing to speak with media outlets until all parties involved, mortuary technicians, paramedics, and police, are all present to provide detailed accounts of the events that took place to satisfy their questions. Fortunately, the woman who was found to be alive is now recovering; though the circumstances that lead her there are regrettable, she is nothing less than lucky to be alive.