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Mortuary Mix-Up Leads to Wrong Body Being Buried In Newport Beach Grave


A funeral home mix-up led to the wrong body being buried in a grave at the Pacific View Cemetery in Corona del Mar. This mix-up was particularly traumatic for the families because it involved four seniors who died in a horrific big-rig crash in Tennessee during a cross-country road trip. According to a news report in The Orange County Register, the body that was buried in the grave meant for 72-year-old Rheta Kanter was actually that of Judith Stele, Kanter’s friend who also died in the auto accident.

The mistake has however been corrected, say officials who are blaming medical and mortuary officials for the mix-up. But family members still had to go through the emotional torture of seeing their loved one’s grave being bulldozed open. Not only that, Kanter’s children were earlier prevented from identifying her body because they were told it was “in pieces.” In truth, Kanter’s body was not as badly traumatized.

They are appalled at the mortuary’s incompetence, as they should be. No family, that had already undergone the grief of so suddenly and shocking lost a loved one, should be put through the trauma of having to dig up a body or have their loved one buried in the wrong place. The family had no idea about the mistake until they were given a bag with what officials said was Kanter’s jewelry, when it in fact was Stele’s jewelry.

Neither Tennessee medical officials nor the California funeral home, Service Corps. International is prepared to accept responsibility for this horrible mistake. Now, Stele has been buried next to her husband at Harbor View Cemetery in Costa Mesa and Kanter next to her husband at Pacific View where she belonged. But the damage has been done. The entire case was obviously handled insensitively and incompetently with least concern or regard for the grieving families.

There is no doubt that the responsible party – whether it was the mortuary in Tennessee or the negligent funeral home here in Orange County – must be held responsible. It is understandable to some extent that businesses make mistakes. It’s human to make mistakes. But this is a grievous error that very much amounts to carelessness, negligence and disregard for the feelings of another.

The families of the deceased would be well-advised to retain a personal injury attorney who can inform them about their legal rights and hold these wrongdoers accountable for their actions. Legal action is the only way for these families not only to get justice but to ensure that these businesses think twice before ever acting in a careless or negligent manner ever again.

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