Two sisters made a devastating realization upon seeing their mother’s casket for the first time: the body it contained did not belong to their mother. The incident was the result of an unfortunate funeral-home mix-up—and as rare as these instances may seem, reports of funeral homes accidentally swapping bodies are far from unheard of.
According to WAVY, Mary Archer passed away last month, leaving her daughters, Jennifer Taylor and Jennetta Archer, in mourning. Eventually, on September 7, the sisters gathered at Hunter’s Funeral Home in Ahoskie, North Carolina for their mother’s viewing.
Looking in the casket, however, they instantly saw that something was wrong—they saw a stranger’s body, dressed in their mother’s clothing.
“There’s no similarity in the person. Their size was way off,” explained Jennetta Archer to WAVY. “When the first person had the clothing on, she was swimming in the clothes because she was so small compared to my mother.”
“We just couldn’t understand how this could happen,” added Taylor.
They recalled bringing the issue to the attention of the funeral home’s staff, but they claim that Hunter’s initially denied the issue. The funeral home reportedly acknowledged the swap only after checking the embalming room, where they found Mary Archer’s body.
“No one addressed it immediately. It would have been a different situation if they had just come up front and addressed it immediately to show that yes, they did, they made an error,” said Archer.
The bodies were quickly switched back, allowing Mary Archer’s service to continue. However, the sisters told WAVY that they felt dissatisfied with how the business handled the situation.
“What do you do to prevent something like that from happening?” asked Archer. “Don’t they have a chart per person and treat them like a customer or a patient…so that you don’t have them mixed up?”
Meanwhile, the news outlet spoke to Hunter’s lead embalmer, who said he tried to contact the sisters to apologize—a claim that Archer and Taylor deny. He also reportedly noted that, in his 40-year career, a mix-up like this one has never once happened before.
The alarming ordeal recalls reports of similar instances over the past several years—and in some of these cases, the mistake went unnoticed until after the burial had been completed.
Earlier this year, for example, two families in San Antonio, Texas sued a funeral home after the bodies of their loved ones were allegedly swapped—a fact that was only discovered after one of them had been buried, reported KENS5.
According to FOX 46 Charlotte, a family in South Carolina accidentally buried a stranger during their 91-year-old grandmother’s funeral in July 2020.
These types of incidents have also been recorded abroad: according to a 2017 Independent report, an analysis of 132 serious NHS “mortuary incidents” between 2002 and 2013 showed that nine of them were cases in which the wrong body had been buried.
Newsweek has reached out to Hunter’s Funeral Home for additional comment.
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