Mother's remains missing after being accidentally cremated in New Jersey

Stacey Sager Image
Saturday, April 9, 2016
Major mixup over mother's remains
Stacey Sager reports a woman's body was accidentally cremated, and her ashes have disappeared.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The body of a New Jersey mother of two was accidentally cremated, with the ashes disappearing as her remains ping-ponged between three funeral homes, according to her traumatized sons.

"It's horrible, it's devastating," said Emillio Irizarry, family member.

Emillio Irizarry says his 66-year-old mother, Consuela Rivera, died last month in New Jersey and because of a mix-up involving three funeral homes her family still has no idea where her remains, are.

"We can't even take her home because we don't know where she is," said Keri Porcelli, Rivera's daughter-in-law.

"They stole that from us. Stole my last kiss, my last goodbye," Irizarry said.

According to a lawsuit naming all three funeral homes, Rivera's family at first planned to use Biondi in Nutley, but then changed their minds. So they arranged to have Rivera's body moved to the Ortiz Funeral Home in Brooklyn. However, Ortiz contracted out with First Avenue Funeral Home in East Harlem, to transport her body, only the unthinkable happened.

"They said we cremated her by accident," Porcelli said.

First Avenue had no comment Thursday, but the owner of Ortiz blamed them.

"They made a mistake, whatever they did. The body was never in our possession," Ortiz Funeral Home said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the manager at Biondi said, "Myself and our staff feel heartbroken about this. No family at one of their most difficult times of their life should have to experience this. However, our responsibility to the Rivera family ended when Ortiz Funeral Home arrived at our funeral home to remove Mrs. Rivera.

Adding further insult, the Rivera family was given the wrong person's ashes twice.

"You just don't make a mistake like that, you don't," Irizarry said.

According to their lawyer, mistakes like these are made all too often.

"They make a huge amount of money on these funerals, and I think that the Health Department needs to better regulate funeral homes," said Michael Lamonsoff, the Rivera Family Attorney.