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Bella Montoya: Woman declared ‘dead’ found alive in coffin during her own wake

Woman declared ‘dead’ found alive in coffin during her own wake’ Bella Montoya, 76, officially died on June 16, 2023, after a week in critical condition at a hospital in the city of Babahoyo, Ecuador, according to CNN.

A classic horror movie trope became a reality for a mourning family in Ecuador when a 76-year-old woman was found breathing inside her coffin during her own wake.


Woman declared ‘dead’ found alive in coffin during her own wake

Bella Montoya, a retired nurse from Babahoyo, Ecuador, was previously declared dead by a doctor on duty at the Martín Icaza Hospital on Friday after she suffered a possible stroke and cardiac arrest, the Associated Press reported. She was already unconscious when her family brought her to the hospital, and she did not respond to resuscitation.

On Friday, after 20 of Montoya’s friends and family spent about five hours standing around the coffin at her wake, they began to hear strange noises coming from inside, including knocking.

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In a since-viral video from the wake, mourners can be seen as they quickly opened the casket and found Montoya struggling to breathe inside. When paramedics arrived, Montoya — who looked gaunt and pale — was lifted onto a stretcher and immediately rushed to the same hospital that pronounced her dead.

The video also shows the hospital identification band around Montoya’s wrist.

Montoya’s son, Gilberto Barbera, told the Associated Press the incident gave everyone present “a fright.”

“My mom was wrapped in sheets and hitting the coffin, and when we approached we could see that she was breathing heavily,” he said.

Barbera told several local media outlets on Monday that his mother was in the intensive care unit. The Associated Press reported Montoya’s situation is “dire.”

Though her current condition is not known, the Ministry of Public Health said Montoya is “unstable,” according to NBC News.


Ecuador’s Ministry of Public Health has established a committee and launched an investigation into the incident.

Alongside the country’s Health Services Quality Assurance Agency, the investigation will perform a “medical audit” to determine who is responsible for wrongfully declaring Montoya dead. The audit will also examine the hospital’s processes for issuing death certificates.

Montoya is not the only woman to be found alive after they were presumed dead. In February, a woman from Long Island, N.Y., was found to be still breathing in a funeral home after having been declared dead by doctors only hours before.

Less than a week before that, a hospice patient in Iowa was discovered gasping for breath inside a body bag despite being presumed dead.

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