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Officials mix up identities of women in fatal crash


PHOENIX – Family and friends spent the past week standing vigil outside a Phoenix hospital room, praying Marlena Cantu would recover from severe injuries suffered in an Arizona traffic crash.

But their world was turned upside down when they learned authorities made a mistake – and the badly bruised, swollen-faced woman in the hospital wasn’t the 21-year-old.

Cantu had actually died in the crash, and her friend – 19-year-old Abby Guerra – was the one in critical condition with a brain injury, broken back, collapsed lung and other injuries.

Guerra’s family had spent the past week planning her funeral, and teammates from Guerra’s University of Evansville soccer team in Indiana planned to fly to Phoenix to attend it. They rushed to her bedside Saturday after learning of the mix-up.

“It’s a miracle but … you feel angry because we mourned all week,” Dorenda Cisneros, Guerra’s aunt, said Sunday in Phoenix.

Cisneros said trying to come to terms with the news of Guerra’s death was like a bad dream, and the family is hopeful someone will be held accountable for the mistake.

“You just don’t want this to ever happen to somebody else, you know? To point fingers and this and that doesn’t do any good,” she said. “We just want … some changes to be made so families don’t have to go through this.”

Cantu and Guerra were among a group of five friends from Ironwood High School in Glendale, outside Phoenix, who were returning from Disneyland on July 18 when the sport utility vehicle they were in blew a tire. The driver lost control, and the SUV rolled several times, authorities had told the families.

One of the five – 20-year-old Tyler Parker – was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, where he died the next day. A woman believed to be Cantu and another person suffered severe head trauma and were also taken to St. Joseph’s.

Officials incorrectly said Guerra had died at the scene, the Arizona Republic reported Sunday.

John Stanley, athletics director at the University of Evansville, said Sunday it has been a week of “roller-coaster” emotions for players, staff and administrators.


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