- Samara Cooks and Leigha Gibson died in a car crash in Pensacola, Florida, in July 2019.
- Their parents say authorities then mixed up their bodies, and accidentally harvested the wrong teen's organs.
- Now the teens' parents are suing the Florida Highway Patrol, two funeral homes, and a local medical examiner in hopes of stopping this from happening again.
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The parents of two teens have filed lawsuits against the Florida Highway Patrol, two funeral homes, and a local medical examiner, claiming that their daughters' bodies were mixed up after a car crash and one of them had her organs harvested without parental consent.
Ranada Cooks and Tammy Gibson filed the lawsuits in Florida's Escambia County Circuit Court on Thursday, in which they claim the bodies of 15-year-old Samara Cooks and 18-year-old Deleigha "Leigha" Gibson were misidentified, and ultimately switched, the Associated Press and the Pensacola News Journal reported.
Leigha and Samara were killed in a July 29, 2019, crash in Pensacola, Florida, while driving with two of their friends. Their vehicle veered off the road around 1:30 a.m., hitting a utility pole and a grouping of trees.
The girls' parents say that authorities may have been the first to mix up the teens' bodies, though it remains unclear. It wasn't revealed that the teens' bodies had been mixed up until Samara Cook's family realized that a funeral home was preparing the wrong body for a funeral.
Ryan Julison, the attorney for the teens' families, said in a statement to WREG: "According to the complaints, even though Gibson and Cooks were different ages, heights, and weights, FHP troopers misidentified their bodies at the scene of the crash which led to Gibson being labeled as Cooks and vice-versa. This switch led to a series of other incidents involving the Coroner, Medical Examiner, and funeral homes."
Julison said their complaints allege that the medical examiner did not properly identify the bodies after they were incorrectly labeled, and would not let the families see their daughters' bodies because it was "not their policy." The medical examiner then handed the bodies off to the wrong funeral homes.
The families said Leigha was an organ donor, but her organs were not harvested after her death. Instead, Samara's organs were harvested without parental consent.
"Basically, we were heartbroken about that. We are just trying to get everything right and give her a proper burial," Leigha's father, Demetrius Gibson, told the Associated Press.
Artie Shimeck, a lawyer for the Cooks family, said there was a "lack of candor and dignity" in how officials handled the teens' deaths.
"They callously disregarded the rights, would not cooperate, would not tell these families anything during a time of unimaginable grief. A time that should be sacred," Shimeck told the Pensacola News Journal.
The parents are now demanding a jury trial to address complaints and evaluate financial compensation. No trial date has been set.
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