QUITO, Ecuador - A chance meeting has reunited identical twin sisters who were separated at birth nearly 15 years ago - and touched off a legal dispute over how two doctors adopted one of the girls.

©Diario El Universo / AP
Identical twins Andrea Freire and Marielisa Romo found out about each other during a chance meeting in the southern Ecuadorean town of Milagros, nearly 15 years after they were separated. Their biological parents accuse two doctors of taking one of the twins after delivery.

Petita Penaherrera says she did not know she had twins until she and her daughter Andrea came face-to-face with Marielisa Romo four months ago in the southern Ecuadorean town of Milagros - meaning "miracles" in English.

Andrea and Marielisa shared the same dark eyes, the same hair, the same ... everything.

Marielisa was accompanied by Roberto Romo and Isabel Garcia, the doctor couple who had delivered the twin babies - and then raised one.

Investigations began and, in June, Penaherrera and her husband Augusto Freire filed a suit against the doctors saying they never mentioned Andrea's twin.

"We never found out about the existence of that girl," Freire said Thursday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "After seeing a girl in the restaurant who was exactly like mine I almost fainted."

He recalled the ensuing conversation: "We asked 'Who's her father?' And the father is Dr. Romo, who was the doctor who performed the Caesarean on my wife."

'Cried and cried'

Romo and Garcia could not be reached for comment but told Ecuavisa television that the biological mother knew about the twins but only wanted to keep one of them.

"The nurse said out loud, 'Congratulations you have two girls"' Garcia told Ecuavisa. "The woman, like every adolescent who is not ready for motherhood, just cried and cried."

"I gave it appropriate time to see if the mother would show up or would feel touched," Romo said. But the couple said there was no written agreement.

Penaherrera insists that she was never told. "They stole her from me, the doctors stole my daughter," she said in an interview with Ecuavisa.

Meanwhile, Penaherrera and Freire are trying to unite the twin girls.

"One day I hope to live with my two daughters," Freire told the AP. "God makes children's hearts return to their parents."

'They love me'

But Marielisa has said she does not want to leave the only parents she knows.

"They have raised me well, they have respected me and helped me," she said in an interview with the Guayaquil newspaper El Universo.

"If they love me so much," the girl said of her biological parents, "let them stop (the lawsuit) and tell me that they won't do anything against the doctors."