Woman who died in crash helps save lives with organ donations

Two young children will grow up without their mother after a crash took her life.

The family of 32-year-old Amanda Gaeta says she died recently after a car hit her while she was crossing a street.

Gaeta was killed when a car driven by a 19-year-old hit her on US-41 in North Fort Myers, but her family says her legacy will live on through organ donation. She’s already saved several people’s lives.

Amanda’s mother, Bridgett Zielinski, told us both of her kidneys and her liver were already donated to three people across the state, and she believes her heart will soon be donated to another person.

The family visited the stretch of road Wednesday where Gaeta was hit to set up flowers and balloons in her memory.

Zielinski was with her daughter one final time Sunday, helping wheel her into the operating room where her organs became lifesaving gifts.

“I said, ‘Amanda, I got your hand right now’. I said, ‘But when your dad reaches out for you, grab him’. I said, ‘You can go. It’s OK, baby girl,’” Zielinski explained.

Zielinski says her daughter was a daddy’s girl. Her father passed away years ago, and Amanda died on his birthday.

“I said, ‘It’s OK. Go with dad. We’ll take care of things here,” Zielinski shared her words of mourning.

Troopers say a 19-year-old woman was driving the car when it hit Amanda Gaeta. That young woman had two young kids with her in the car, and troopers say they don’t expect her to be charged.

“It’s not your fault at all. I can feel your pain already because I know that you must be traumatized and everything else,” Zielinski said. “Don’t be. Not your fault. Accidents happen.”

Amanda Gaeta leaves behind a young son and daughter. Family members took a picture of her 6-year-old daughter standing in front of the flag raised at Lee Memorial Hospital honoring Gaeta’s gift of life to the strangers she is giving a chance at life to.

“It just rips you apart, you know, because they’re babies, and they’ve gone through a lot,” Zielinski said.

Close friends will remember the woman they called their backbone, someone who always cheered them up when they were down. Their hope now is that Amanda’s long-time boyfriend, who was there when it happened, doesn’t blame himself.

“It’s not his fault. It’s just that accidents happen, you know, he’s not to blame at all, and neither is the driver,” friend Erica Coppens said. “It’s just an unfortunate event.”

Amanda’s mother told us she plans to write letters to the people who received her daughter’s donated organs. She can’t contact them directly, but hopes they’ll see them and contact her one day. She says she’d like to give them and hug and talk with them about her daughter.

Reporter:Justin Kase
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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