COPY-Mistaken identity: UE soccer player still alive

Posted by Rich Miller - email

EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - A University of Evansville soccer player thought to have died in an accident is actually alive.

Authorities in Arizona listed Abby Guerra as one of the victims of an auto accident in Arizona last Sunday but over the weekend, it was discovered to be a case of mistaken identity.

Guerra is alive but still fighting for her life.  She is listed in critical condition at an Arizona hospital.

John Stanley, UE's Director of Athletics says, "We have confirmed that Abby did not die in the accident, that somehow she was mistakenly identified as the person who died at the scene."

It's still unclear just how exactly the two identities were mistaken.

Guerra was a passenger in a vehicle with four of her friends last Sunday driving back to Arizona from Disneyland when the SUV apparently blew a tire and flipped on Interstate 10, about 50 miles from the family's home in Glendale.

Two passengers died as a result of injuries from the accident, one of whom was thought to be Guerra.  However, the female victim identified as Guerra was actually her friend, 21-year-old Marlena Cantu.  The mix-up was not discovered until Saturday when fingerprint records were checked by the medical examiner.  The accident had left both women with injuries so severe it was difficult for even family members who sat by Cantu's bedside to realize it was actually Guerra.

The case is eerily similar to a 2006 accident on I-69 in Indiana in which the identities of two Taylor University students were switched.  That mistake was not discovered until five weeks after the accident.

Most of Guerra's teammates, coaches and friends had already flown out to Arizona to attend her funeral which was scheduled for Monday.

Guerra underwent surgery after the accident and is still in critical condition with brain and back injuries.  She is a nursing student at UE and is planning to become an emergency room nurse.

"Our head coach, Krista McKendree received a phone call yesterday afternoon from a parent of one of Abby's teammates.  That family had traveled early to Arizona to be with Abby's family because they were not able to stay for Monday's planned funeral due to a previous commitment," said Stanley.  "After they arrived and were headed to the Guerras' house, they called and were told by an aunt what appeared to be unfolding and were told to go to the hospital instead. They were actually with both girls' families when they were given confirmation that Abby was the hospitalized girl."

"Most of Abby's teammates, along with all three coaches, and a senior Athletics administrator have arrived in Arizona as previously planned because they were to attend the funeral tomorrow," said Stanley.  "Now they are there to support Abby, her family, and one another. As you can imagine, this continues to be a very emotional roller coaster for everyone involved. Throughout the week, University of Evansville's chaplain and counselors have assisted both players and coaches, including in these hours since they received the startling news about the turn of events."

Watch coverage, including an interview with the Cantu family on NBC's Today

Stay tuned to 14WFIE and for more on this story.

©2010 WFIE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.