UK & World News

  • 13 January 2014, 17:02

Wrong Body Sent Home To Grieving Family

The daughter of a woman who died unexpectedly while on holiday in the Caribbean has demanded answers after the wrong body was sent to the US in a coffin.

Lisa Kondvar, of Rhode Island, said her 82-year-old father Peter Porkka is distraught after being unable to properly say goodbye to his wife of 60 years, Margaret.

She said the family discovered another woman's body in the open coffin at a New Jersey funeral home, just hours before a funeral wake was due to take place.

She said: "I looked up, and I was like, 'Good God, are you kidding me?' I was stunned."

The family went ahead with the wake before handing the body over to authorities.

Mrs Porkka, 82, died the morning after Thanksgiving during her annual holiday to St Maarten.

Her body was taken to Emerald Funeral Home on the island, but the funeral director denied a request to see her and requested a $7,000 (4,250) wire fee to send the body back to the US.

But after her family paid the fee, they discovered the body of a tall brunette woman inside rather than their short, blonde, mother.

They believe a hospital or the funeral home confused Mrs Porkka's body with that of a Canadian woman who died on the island around the same time. Mrs Porkka's body may already have been cremated in Ottawa.

Inside the coffin was a pouch containing jewellery that did not belong to Mrs Porkka.

St Maarten Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams said last week the government has formed a committee to investigate the case at the request of US officials.

DNA tests will be carried out to verify the identities of both bodies.

Ms Wescot-Williams said both women were in the 80s and died on November 29 from natural causes. Their bodies were flown to the US on the same airline.

Orlando Vanterpool, director of the Emerald Funeral Home, said: "To my knowledge, we sent the correct human remains. Everything was regulated with the government.

"All the paperwork was in order, but apparently somewhere, somehow, something happened."

Ms Kondvar said no cause of death for her mother has been provided and the death certificate issued in St Maarten listed her as a man.

She told CNN: "It pains me that she's gone, and it's even worse because I don't have her and I want to hold her one more time, and I can't do that."

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