Funeral delayed after Scarborough mortuary fails to locate body

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday


Patrisha Ramsumair Cromarthy lays flowers on the casket carrying her mother Narupa Ramsumair, at the Buccoo public cemetery on Tuesday. – Photo by David Reid

Two Tobago families were left traumatised on Monday after the Scarborough morgue failed to find the body of a covid19 victim in time for the funeral on Monday.

During the search, another body was found tagged with the name of man who was buried last Thursday.

On Monday, a Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) source told Newsday the morgue has been overflowing with bodies as covid19 deaths surge. There were a record five covid19 deaths on Sunday. Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said the THA is considering sourcing a temporary freezer to accommodate the bodies.

The Scarborough mortuary has just 18 drawers.

Patrisha Ramsumair Cromarthy, the daughter of covid19 victim Narupa Ramsumair, told Newsday her mother’s body was found on Monday night and laid to rest at the Buccoo Cemetery at 2pm on Tuesday. The funeral was originally scheduled for 11am on Monday.

She said the family was left exhausted by the experience.

“It was traumatic. It was harsh,” she said on Tuesday.

“I don’t know how to feel. I’m numb – and on top of that you are not getting any direct answers.”

She claimed officials are “casting the blame on other parties when the mistake was made by the mortuary.”

The body of Narupa Ramsumair arrives at the Buccoo public cemetery, Tobago, on Tuesday for interment. – Photo by David Reid

Cromarthy said it was only after she complained to Secretary of Health Dr Faith BYisreal and other senior health officials that the body was found.

“The body did go missing yesterday when it was supposed to be buried, and it wasn’t until last night I got a phone call that the body was found and is ready for removal at the mortuary. I’m sure the body wasn’t there – they told me it wasn’t there. I had to go to the police station.”

She added, “There’s a lot of confusion taking place, families now concerned because they not sure who they are burying because you can’t identify once it’s a covid19 victim.”

Asked if she is sure the body buried on Tuesday was that of her mother, Cromarthy said, “The funeral home gave me the assurance, because I told them I’m not claiming a body unless I get confirmation that the body being buried is mom. I did get that confirmation.”

Archdeacon Garnet Dash of Mt Paran Spiritual Baptist Church, Bethel, who was supposed to officiate the funeral on Monday, said the family contacted him during the ordeal on Monday.

“Around 9.15 am the morticians went up to the hospital lodge to collect the body. After some time we were advised that they could not locate the body. They asked for us to give them a few minutes. We gave them an hour – that turned into an hour and a half, then two hours. Three hours later we decided to go up to the mortuary.

“The family asked me to accompany them because they don’t know know what would be happening. When I went up there we were told the body isn’t there, they checked all the drawers and everything but they couldn’t locate the body of the lady’s mother.”

He claimed officials told him only the body unaccounted for was tagged under a man’s name. But that person had been buried last week.

“They said they were not sure where that body with that name tag came from because they were given the drawer number for the body and that is the one the mortician collected.

“Ironically, I would have done that funeral on Thursday. So the body of the one they are claiming is still in the mortuary is the one I would have committed on Thursday. Still, the female body couldn’t be found.”

The daughter of the man buried last week told Newsday this new information has left her disturbed.

She told Newsday was was heading to the hospital to sort the matter out.

Contacted for an update, another relative said the hospital gave them the assurance that they buried the right body.

“Yes, it is traumatic, because nobody else wants to deal with this.”

Tobago Regional Health Authority CEO Westly Orr on Tuesday denied reports of missing bodies at the hospital.

“No body is missing at the Scarborough mortuary.

“I don’t know about the guy the media interviewed, I don’t know anything about it. I’m telling you it’s foolishness. That information is not good information – that I can tell you for sure.”

Orr expressed disappointment in media reports on the matter. “That’s why you must ask a question. You were the first person to call and ask anything about that.”