Family mistakenly told daughter had died
Dec. 02, 1997
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Shell Irwin flew to Tennessee for the funeral of her niece only to end up at the girl's hospital bedside.
Her niece, Tiffany Moshier, survived last week's car accident. Tiffany Getty did not. The hospital misidentified the two 14-year-olds _ leading to sudden relief for one family, and just as sudden grief for the other.
``It makes you believe in miracles,'' Ms. Irwin said Monday.
There was no miracle for Kathy Getty, who stood vigil at the hospital for four days before learning that the critically injured girl she thought was her daughter actually was her daughter's best friend.
``I go from having a live daughter, to having my daughter dead for four days. I've been to hell and back,'' Kathy Getty told the Nashville Banner.
Tiffany Moshier is petite and dark, while Tiffany Getty was blond and several inches taller. Mrs. Getty had been in the intensive care unit of Vanderbilt Medical Center since Wednesday, but she couldn't tell Miss Moshier was not her daughter because of the girl's injuries. The girl could not speak and was using a breathing tube.
On Sunday, when the tube was removed, she identified herself.
``I don't even know where my daughter has been all this time. But why did it take them four days to figure this out?'' Mrs. Getty said.
The two girls from Franklin were passengers in a pickup truck that crossed the center line and crashed head-on into another pickup Wednesday afternoon.
A third passenger, James Felts, also died. The driver, 20-year-old William Nesmith, was in fair condition. The driver of the other pickup and his passenger received minor injuries.
The mixup occurred when one of Nesmith's relatives, who said he was a friend of both girls, misidentified them in the emergency room.
``This has never happened before,'' said Corey Slovis, head of the emergency room. ``In retrospect, now that it has happened, we're going to have to rethink our whole procedure.''
Initial identification can be done by anyone, Slovis said. But that ID would not be used to make a decision on operating or for serious medical questions.
James Omer Jr., a lawyer for the Moshiers, criticized the hospital and medical examiner for failing to ask a family member to identify the dead girl.
Miss Moshier's parents, who had placed a death notice in a local newspaper on Sunday, canceled a funeral scheduled for Monday at Williamson Memorial Funeral Home.
Funeral home director David Stephens said that Giselle Moshier told him on Friday that she did not believe the body at the funeral home was her daughter's.
``She said her daughter would have had to have changed clothes because the clothing and jewelry we returned to her were not her daughter's,'' he told The Tennessean.
The next morning, her husband, Bruce Moshier, looked at the body and agreed it was not his daughter.
``Somebody made a terrible mistake,'' said Clyde Stephens, the funeral home owner.
Miss Moshier's funeral was scheduled for Wednesday.