A case of mistaken identity led a New York funeral home to cremate the wrong woman, her family says.
Val-Jean McDonald was 81 when she died of lung cancer in December. Her heartbroken children, Leroy and Errol McDonald, left Bronxwood Funeral Home to take care of the arrangements.
"We had a funeral. It wasn’t our mother in there,” Leroy said told CBS New York.
But the family did not know that at the time. And mourners came from as far away as Australia to pay their respects to the late Mrs. McDonald.
There were signs something was amiss, though, Errol said. The woman in the coffin did look different, but Errol said he just assumed it was a result of the chemotherapy treatments.
He even attributed the chemo to his mother's suddenly shorter hair.
It was actually Errol's 10-year-old son who first saw the mistake, he told The New York Times.
"Daddy, that’s not Grandma," the boy said.
The somber ceremony went on, nonetheless, and the next day the family attended the cremation.
Nearly a week later, Errol's brother Richard said they got a call from the funeral home saying the woman they cremated wasn't Val-Jean McDonald, but another woman who happened to look a lot like her.
"Your mother is still here," the manager told him.
The family is now furious and looking for answers.
McCall's Bronxwood Funeral Home referred all inquiries on the matter to a spokesman, who sent InsideEdition.com the following statement:
"McCall’s Bronxwood Funeral Home has been in business for 50 years and certainly nothing like this has ever happened before.
"We have expressed to the affected families our acute distress and sorrow over this occurrence, and we are reimbursing the McDonalds for all costs of associated with the funeral."
According to the Times, both the Division of Cemeteries and the state’s Bureau of Funeral Directing are investigating how the mix-up occurred.
The New York State Division of Cemeteries does not have jurisdiction over funeral homes. Instead, their investigation will focus only on the crematorium where Mrs. McDonald was sent.
The Bureau of Funeral Directing declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.
The funeral home said it will "continue to fully cooperate and share all aspects of the situation with the governing regulating agencies and therefore cannot comment further."