NEW JERSEY (CBSNewYork/AP) — DNA tests will be performed to determine if a New Jersey woman was cremated in Canada after her family discovered the wrong body in her casket.
Lisa Kondvar of Warwick, R.I., and her family discovered someone else’s body in Margaret Porkka’s casket at a New Jersey funeral home last month. Porkka, 82, had died unexpectedly during a trip to St. Maarten over Thanksgiving.
The discovery was made on the day of Porkka’s wake. The family proceeded with the service, with the casket closed, because they discovered the mistake just before calling hours were about to begin.
The family said they suspect Porkka’s body was confused with a Canadian woman who died on the island at around the same time.
Scott Aldridge, a detective in Barrie, Ontario, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the woman in Porkka’s casket had been identified as 82-year-old Kathleen Togwell. Her body is being returned to Canada.
Kondvar said bodily fluids were recovered from a casket in Canada that might have contained Porkka’s body. The family sent her hairbrush and toothbrush for DNA testing. Results are not expected until the end of the month.
The family said it wants to take possession of the ashes if it is confirmed to be those of Porkka.
Kondvar said her father, who lives in Englewood, N.J., is “just broken” after not being able to say a goodbye to his wife.
At the request of U.S. officials, St. Maarten Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams said the government there has formed a committee to investigate the case.
Emerald Funeral Home director Orlando Vanterpool said he took the bodies to the airport on the same day and the air trays containing the bodies were identical.
“To my knowledge, we sent the correct human remains,” he said. “Everything was regulated with the government. All the paperwork was in order, but apparently somewhere, somehow, something happened.”
Vanterpool said he would give the family a refund if the government determines a mistake was made.
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