NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There was a shocking discovery at a Staten Island cemetery – a man buried in the wrong grave.
His family unknowingly stood with the wrong casket, then sensed something was wrong — really wrong, CBS2’s Dave Carlin reportedly exclusively on Friday.
“We gathered around the casket and the rabbi began to perform the service under Jewish customs and traditions,” Midwood resident Sam Gutnick said.
Gutnick said his grandfather Grigory Gutnikov’s dying wish was to be buried with dignity.
But that did not happen.
The service was underway in April of last year at Staten Island’s Mount Richmond Cemetery when Gutnick and his mother, Jenny, noticed a suspicious tag on the casket.
“(There was) a tape with the name written on it which wasn’t my grandfather’s,” Gutnick said.
They had to know for sure. After prodding the rabbi, they were allowed to look. When the coffin lid was lifted inside was a stranger.
“Everybody went into a spiral because nobody knew what was happening,” Gutnick said.
The deceased woman inside was supposed to have been buried a few hours earlier. There had been a switch and Gutnikov was now deep down in the wrong grave.
“So they brought over a forklift and they had to dig up all the dirt,” Gutnick said.
Overseeing the switch back to the correct burial plot lasted six hours.
CBS2’s Carlin demanded answers from the cemetery manager, but she ran into her office.
The family’s lawsuit names the cemetery and five other entities, including Capitol Funeral Service. Its spokesman, Mark Seitelman, said “the problem was corrected as soon as it was discovered. There was no damage or harm to the body of the deceased.”
He said it’s unknown who among the many defendants who handled the remains and the transport is ultimately responsible.
Gutnick and his attorneys, Florian Bruno and Nicholas Timko, have vowed to find out as the case heads to court.
“For all we know this has happened many, many times before,” Timko said.
Now, for the Gutnick family, visiting the grave brings back horrible memories.
“Trapped in a grieving process,” Bruno said.
The incident has blocked closure for family members who say they’re frozen in grief.
The lawsuit includes unspecified monetary damages for the family, Carlin reported.