Warwick woman finds wrong body in mother's casket

Margaret Porkka

Lisa Kondvar is not only dealing with the loss of her mom, but a monumental mistake, too.

"They sent us the wrong body," Kondvar told NBC10 in her Warwick home Friday.

Kondvar was on an annual Thanksgiving family vacation with her siblings and their mother, Margaret Porkka, in St. Maarten in the Caribbean.

Margaret died while on the trip.

"I'm in shock. I'm still in shock," Kondvar said.

But then insult was added to the grief.

Lisa says her family wasn't allowed to see the body at the funeral home in St. Maarten and then the funeral home wanted $7000 to release the body.

After more than a week, a body was flown to New Jersey, where Porkka lived.

But at the funeral home there, the family realized something was terribly wrong when they saw the open casket.

Lisa first noticed the hair, "then I was able to look at the face and I was like, 'that's not mom.' Like, oh my gosh."

"I collapsed into one of the chairs there. But at the same time, the tears stopped because that's not momIt was so surreal. I was looking around like it's a nightmare."

The family went ahead with a service, but then sent the wrong body to the medical examiner in New Jersey.

That body turned out to be that of a Canadian woman who had also died in St. Maarten. Her family cremated the body it received, not realizing there was a mix-up.

Lisa and her family can only assume that was their mom's body, but they don't know for sure.

"When I'm alone and I'm in my thoughts, that's when I start thinking and that's when it really hurts that, not only is mom gone, gone with god, and I know she's up there, but where is her earthly vessel? Where is, I just want to hold her one more time and I'm not given that opportunity to."

The Associated Press reports the St. Maarten Prime Minister said Friday the government will do a DNA analysis to verify the bodies' identities, and that the funeral home director there says he'll give a refund to the family if the government finds a mistake was made.

He told the AP he took the bodies to the airport on the same day but claims he sent the correct bodies.