Ecuadorian Woman Declared Dead Knocks On Coffin During Her Own Wake

Published June 13, 2023
Updated June 14, 2023

After suffering cardiac arrest in the hospital, 76-year-old Bella Montoya was declared dead. She later surprised her family and friends by "resurrecting" at her own wake.

Bella Montoya's Coffin

Ecuador ComunicaciónA still from the video of Montoya’s wake showing relatives and firefighters freeing her from her casket.

After 76-year-old Bella Montoya suffered a cardiorespiratory failure in a hospital in Ecuador last week, doctors there declared the retired nurse dead. Montoya’s friends and family gathered for a wake that same day — and a few hours in, they were startled to hear a knocking sound coming from inside the coffin.

After opening the wooden casket, they found that Bella Montoya was, in fact, still alive.

The ordeal began last Friday when Montoya’s family brought her to the hospital, unconscious on arrival. Doctors there found her to be suffering from cardiac arrest and a possible stroke. After Montoya failed to respond to resuscitation, the doctor on duty declared her dead.

Later that same day, the mourning family brought her to a funeral home to hold a wake with a small group of friends and family. Then, things started to get weird.

“There were about 20 of us there,” Montoya’s son, Gilberto Barbera, told The Associated Press. “After about five hours of the wake, the coffin started to make sounds. My mom was wrapped in sheets and hitting the coffin, and when we approached we could see that she was breathing heavily.”

Bella Montoya In The Coffin

Ecuador ComunicaciónBella Montoya in her coffin during the wake.

The family immediately called for emergency services. The incident, captured on camera, shows the family helping Montoya in her casket and firefighters taking her back to the hospital:

As of today, Montoya is still at the hospital, and her prognosis remains uncertain.

“My mom is on oxygen, her heart is stable. The doctor pinched her hand and she reacted. They tell me that’s good because it means she is reacting little by little,” Barbera told local newspaper El Universo, according to the BBC.

As for Montoya’s family, they are still trying to understand how this mistake could have happened.

“It gave us all a fright,” Barbera told The Associated Press.

“Little by little I am grasping what has happened. Now I only pray for my mother’s health to improve. I want her alive and by my side,” Barbera said, as reported by CBS News.

The incident has prompted a government investigation into the hospital and the doctors who declared Montoya dead.

Surprisingly, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened this year.

In January, a nursing home incorrectly declared one of its 66-year-old residents dead. When employees transported her to a funeral home, she woke up gasping for air.

This February, funeral home staff in New York found an 82-year-old woman breathing while awaiting burial.

“Sometimes somebody may look like they’re dead but they’re not quite dead,” Doctor Stuart Hughes, a senior lecturer in medicine at Anglia Ruskin University’s School of Medicine, told the BBC. “Careful examination is necessary to confirm death.”

Dr. Hughes recommends that all medical professionals look for the key signs of life: pulse, heartbeat, and breath.

“If that’s all absent then you can say they’re dead,” Dr. Hughes concluded.


After reading about Bella Montoya’s “resurrection,” discover the story of Essie Dunbar, a South Carolina woman who was allegedly buried alive. Then, read the story of Noela Rukundo, the woman who crashed her own funeral.

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Amber Morgan
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Amber Morgan is an Editorial Fellow for All That's Interesting. She graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in political science, history, and Russian. Previously, she worked as a content creator for America House Kyiv, a Ukrainian organization focused on inspiring and engaging youth through cultural exchanges.
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Jaclyn Anglis
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Jaclyn is the senior managing editor at All That's Interesting. She holds a Master's degree in journalism from the City University of New York and a Bachelor's degree in English writing and history (double major) from DePauw University. She is interested in American history, true crime, modern history, pop culture, and science.
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Morgan, Amber. "Ecuadorian Woman Declared Dead Knocks On Coffin During Her Own Wake." AllThatsInteresting.com, June 13, 2023, https://allthatsinteresting.com/bella-montoya. Accessed June 13, 2024.