Woman finds wrong body in mother’s casket

WARWICK, R.I. — A woman wants answers after finding the wrong body in a casket that should have contained her mother, who died unexpectedly while on vacation in St. Maarten.

Lisa Kondvar, of Warwick, and her family discovered another woman’s body in the casket at a New Jersey funeral home last month. The body of her mother, Margaret Porkka, had been prepared at a funeral home on the island.

“I looked up, and I was like, ‘Good God, are you kidding me?’ I was stunned,” Kondvar said by telephone Friday.

The family proceeded with the wake, with the casket closed, because they discovered the mistake just before calling hours were about to begin.

The relatives believe a hospital or funeral home confused Porkka’s body with that of a Canadian woman who died on the island around the same time. They also think Porkka’s body was cremated in Ottawa.

The family wants to know for sure and will take possession of the ashes if they are determined to be those of Porkka, Kondvar said.

The two dead women bore no resemblance to one another and were of different frames and heights, she said. The family has hired a detective and is looking for an international attorney.

St. Maarten Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams said Friday the government there has formed a committee to investigate the case at the request of U.S. officials and will conduct a DNA analysis to verify the identities of both bodies.

She said the women were in their 80s and died Nov. 29 from natural causes and their bodies were flown to the U.S. on the same airline. She said the body flown to Canada was cremated.

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.

Kondvar said her sister wasn’t allowed to see the body on the island and the funeral home wouldn’t release it unless the family wired $7,000 in cash because it wouldn’t accept a check or credit cards.

Vanterpool said Emerald Funeral Home has a policy of not releasing human remains until the necessary payments have been made, especially if the remains are being flown abroad.

St. Maarten, which is part of the Netherlands, shares a Caribbean island with St. Martin, a French dependency. Porkka and the family were there over Thanksgiving.

Kondvar said her 82-year-old father, who lives in Englewood, N.J., and couldn’t make the trip to St. Maarten, is distraught after being unable to say goodbye to his wife of more than 60 years.

“He’s very angry and very bitter,” she said.

Kondvar said a cause of death for her mother hasn’t been provided and the death certificate issued in St. Maarten listed her as a man.

More in Local News

Bicycle tour raises money for dialysis patients

Volunteers also shared health information and put together care packages for homeless women.

Elderly couple escape serious injuries in crash with train

The driver drove down tracks instead of a road, hitting a slow-moving train near Stanwood.

Expect river levels to keep rising, though sun is on the way

Some could crest above minor and moderate flood levels.

Arrests made in robbery-turned fatal Everett shooting

A man, 24, and woman, 18, were found at a hotel in Seattle.

Boeing reaches out to schools

Company employees helped Everett students at recent reading and Manufacturing Day events.

5-vehicle collision sends school bus into ditch; no injuries

No students were hurt when a school bus crashed into… Continue reading

Fire crew returns early from wildfires in Northern California

Four Everett firefighters returned from battling California wildfires late Thursday… Continue reading

Theft lands former insurance salesman 50 days in jail

A former insurance salesman is expected to report to jail… Continue reading

Pair of intrepid musicians climb N. Cascades summits to play

Rose Freeman and Anastasia Allison pack their instruments up mountains for high-altitude recitals.

Most Read