A family is seeking closure after realizing their mother may have been cremated accidentally while on vacation. Margaret Porkka was away with her family in St. Maarten when she died suddenly during her annual Thanksgiving vacation.
The 82-year-old woman was pronounced dead on November 29 at St. Maarten Medical Center. Porkka’s daughter, Lisa Kondvar, said her mother’s death didn’t make sense because she was a picture of health. Other than a right hip replacement and a pacemaker her mother was very active and in good health.
Kondvar said the family was informed that Porkka’s remains had been taken to Emerald Funeral Home. Upon arrival to the funeral home the director would not allow her to view her mother’s body and wanted $7,000 by wire transfer before they would release her body and have it sent back to New Jersey where Porkka lived.
Anxious to have their mother’s body returned to the U.S., and not knowing any alternative, the family immediately wired the demanded money, left a set of clothes for Porkka’s funeral service, her passport along with the necessary information for the death certificate.
The body took more than a week to arrive. Once the body arrived Kondvar was shocked to find out that the wrong body had been sent to them. Kondvar said she looked inside the coffin at her mother’s wake and was devastated to find another woman’s body inside.
Kondvar said her mother was a small, beautiful and vivacious blonde but the woman in the open casket was a tall brunette. Although the woman was wearing her mother’s clothing and was accompanied with the appropriate death certificate and passport she was not her mother. Kondvar said she and her family want their mother back and they want answers.
Repeated calls made to the funeral home and the medical center have not been returned to Kondvar. In fact, nothing has been communicated to the family from Emerald Funeral Home or the hospital since they left St. Maarten.
In search of answers and closure Kondvar, who lives in Rhode Island, reached out to U.S. Senator Jack Reed for assistance. According to Reed’s spokesman, Chip Unruh, Reed has been in communications with the U.S. consulate in St. Maarten. Reed is a personal friend of Kondvar and is closely monitoring the situation.
Kondvar said the funeral home was supposed to notify the U.S. consulate of her mother’s death so that their office could arrange for the body to be accompanied back to the United States. That did not happen. Now there is reason to believe that Porkka’s body was inadvertently sent to a family in Canada where she was cremated.
St. Maarten’s government has issued a statement on its website giving an overview of what occurred during this unfortunate mishap. The government says two women, one American and the other Canadian, died on November 29 and were sent to the same funeral home. The families of both women wanted the bodies of their loved ones returned to their respective homes. The government honored the families’ request and had the deceased women flown home on the same airline.
Once the bodies arrived to their “expected” locations the next of kin for both women claimed the body they received was not their relative and lodged a complaint with local authorities. The government ended their statement by saying that the body that was sent to Canada had since been cremated.
The other’s woman’s family in Ottawa, Canada cremated the body before they were informed that it wasn’t their relative. Now St. Maarten officials aren’t sure if the body the Canadian family received was that of Kondvar’s mother. Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams said the government will have a DNA analyses done on both bodies to verify conclusively the identity of both women.
Kondvar and her family are seeking closure after realizing their mother may have been cremated accidentally after dying on vacation. Margaret Porkka was away in St. Maarten when she died suddenly during their annual Thanksgiving vacation.
Linda Kondvar is comforted knowing her mother loved St. Maarten and said it brings a sense of peace to know her mother died in a place she considered paradise.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)