By NAN Staff Writer
News Americas, PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten, Tues. Jan. 15, 2013: The government of St. Maarten has been forced to step into the mix after a grieving family in the U.S. received the wrong dead body.
A statement from St. Maarten’s government says it has appointed its health inspector to investigate how the body of Margaret Porkka ended up being mixed up by a funeral home on the island.
Lisa Kondvar of Rhode Island told CNN she was shocked to see the body of a tall brunette woman lying in the open casket at her mother’s wake in New Jersey on December 9th. However, she said the body was dressed in Porkka’s clothing and was accompanied by her passport and death certificate.
Her 82-year-old mother, she said, was vacationing in St. Maarten on the family’s annual Thanksgiving trip when she died suddenly after feeling light-headed. Kondvar said the Emerald Funeral Home had requested a $7,000 wire-transfer-only fee for the body of her body to be transported back to the U.S. Now, Kondvar and her family want answers, and they want their mother back, she said.
A statement from the St. Maarten government say that two women, who were both in their 80s, died from natural causes while on vacation there on Nov. 29.
The government says both bodies were sent to the same funeral home and flown to the U.S. on the same airline and the body of the Canadian woman was then flown to Canada.
“Upon collection of the deceased the next of kin of both deceased persons claimed that this was not the body of their respective relatives and have lodged a complaint with the local law enforcement authorities. The body that was flown to Canada has since been cremated,” a government statement on the St. Maarten website said.
St. Maarten added in its statement that its ordered a DNA analysis on both sets of remains.
In Canada, a Foreign Affairs spokeswoman says the department has been in touch both with officials in St. Maarten and relatives of the Canadian woman.
Kondvar, meanwhile, said the two dead women bore no resemblance to one another and were of different frames and heights. Her mother she said was a small blonde women. The body in the casket they received was of a tall brunette.
The family has hired a detective and is looking for an international attorney.
In St. Maarten, Emerald Funeral Home director Orlando Vanterpool claims he took the two 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 was quoted as saying. “Everything was regulated with the government. All the paperwork was in order, but apparently somewhere, somehow, something happened.”