Investigation Launched After Woman Declared Dead at Hospital Reportedly Bangs on Coffin During Wake in Ecuador

A family member said they first heard "sounds" coming from the coffin, then noticed the 76-year-old woman was still breathing.

open coffin is shown
Image via Getty/Greg Vote, VStock LLC
open coffin is shown

An investigation is underway after a woman who was declared dead at a hospital in Ecuador was reportedly later heard banging on her coffin during a wake.

Per a report from the Associated Press, the 76-year-old woman—identified as Bella Montoya, a former nurse—was first taken to a hospital for treatment in response to a suspected stroke with cardiac arrest.

In a news release shared to Facebook on Monday, Ecuador’s Ministry of Public Health said the woman had initially been admitted to a hospital in Babahoyo on Friday. While there, according to the statement, she did not respond to resuscitation efforts, at which point a doctor “confirmed her death.” During a subsequent wake with roughly 20 attendees, however, the woman was reportedly discovered to still be breathing.

“After about five hours of the wake, the coffin started to make sounds,” Montoya’s son, Gilberto Barbera, told AP. “My mom was wrapped in sheets and hitting the coffin, and when we approached we could see that she was breathing heavily.”

Ecuador’s Ministry of Public Health and the Health Services Quality Assurance Agency said on Monday they had formed a committee to carry out a “medical audit” in this shocking case. The woman, meanwhile, remains hospitalized and intubated in the ICU.

2023 has also seen several similar cases of apparently premature death declarations here in the States. In January, for example, a woman was found “gasping for air” inside a body bag after a nurse at a hospice facility in Iowa mistakenly pronounced her dead.

Then, in February, a woman was found breathing at a funeral home in New York mere hours after being declared dead. Both incidents resulted in fines for the respective facilities.

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