WARWICK, R.I. (CBS) — A Warwick, Rhode Island woman wants answers after discovering the wrong body in a casket that should have contained her mother, who died unexpectedly while vacationing in St. Maarten.
“It’s hard for me to believe she’s actually gone because I haven’t seen her,” said Lisa Kondvar, the daughter of 82-year-old Margaret Porkka. She died Thanksgiving night after feeling lightheaded and going to bed. “Mom laid down, took a couple of shallow breaths, and just stopped breathing.”
The heartfelt loss of the vibrant woman, and now the nightmare when a funeral home on the Caribbean island mixed up Porkka’s body with a Canadian woman who also died that day. “It was total carelessness, disrespect and uncaring,” she says.
There’s both misinformation and little information on a death certificate, says Kondvar. A body that arrived home at JFK airport had no tags and no name, she said. Her mother’s body may have been sent to Canada and cremated.
The discovery of the mistake wasn’t made by Lisa Kondvar until she arrived at what she thought was Margaret Porkka’s wake back home. “Finally I got there and I was like, what? I looked at my daughters and said this isn’t grandma, this isn’t my mom. They put the clothes that my mother was supposed to come in on this woman.”
The family was never allowed to say goodbye at the St. Maarten funeral home, and was told to have $7,000 wired for the body to be released – the wrong body. “Was she really there? Where was she.” Lisa Kondvar is waiting for DNA results to confirm it was her mother’s body in Canada and the family will hire a detective to piece together what happened. “I don’t have any completion, I don’t have finality.”
She has what she knows is the last picture taken of her mother the day she suddenly died, but still wants to know exactly where she is.