Wrong body in coffin sent to Norway

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“The first thing we thought was ‘where’s papa?'” Linda Axelsen of Verdal in Nord-Trøndelag told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), after finding the body of another man in the coffin that was supposed to contain her late father.

Axelsen’s father, Gunnar Johannessen, died of  heart failure while on holiday in Turkey last month. That was hard enough for Linda and her two brothers, Jørn and Ronny, to cope with. Things got worse when their local funeral home received the coffin sent from Istanbul and discovered that the body in it was not Johannessen’s.

His children had already set a funeral date right after Christmas. They had to call around and tell friends and family that there wouldn’t be a funeral after all, because their father’s body was missing.

They were told there’d been a mix-up at an overseas airport, and the wrong coffin was sent to the funeral home in Trondheim. “I was shocked,” Laris Erik Svanholm of Svanholm Begravelsesbyrå told NRK. “It’s very seldom something like this happens.”

Axelsen and her brothers were shocked as well. “And then we were afraid that papa had been buried in another country,” Axelsen told NRK. Since burial routines vary from country to country, Svanholm also realized it was extremely urgent to track down Johannessen’s coffin. The body that arrived in Norway was supposed to have been sent to Germany and then on to Libya for burial.  Johannessen’s body was finally located and both were sent to their rightful locations.

“We are very sorry about all this,” medical director Asgeir Kvam of SOS International, the firm handling the body shipments, told NRK. “We had responsibility and we take responsibility.”

Johanessen was buried in Verdal on Wednesday. “In the middle of all your grief, this was the last thing we needed,” his daughter told NRK. “I hope no one else has to experience the same. But we did get him home.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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