The County Coroner's Office Accidentally Cremated The Wrong Body

The L.A. County coroner's office has mistakenly cremated the wrong man after accidentally confusing his remains with those of another man who had the same name, reports the Los Angeles Times. The family of the man who was accidentally cremated had been planning a funeral and private viewing until the coroner's office notified them of the mistake.

The mixup happened because there were two men named Jorge Hernandez at the county morgue. The Jorge Hernandez who was accidentally cremated was 26 years old, and died on October 7 of a drug overdose at Glendale Adventist Medical Center. The other Jorge Hernandez was described as indigent by coroner's office spokesperson Armand Montiel.

On October 18, a coroner's attendant visited the morgue to retrieve the other Jorge Hernandez's remains for cremation, according to the Daily News. "When retrieving the remains, the coroner's attendant matched the name but did not match the coroner case number. It was an oversight by human error," Montiel said in a statement.

Montiel continued, saying that the coroner's office immediately contacted the family on the same day. "It is the policy of the Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner to always check the coroner case number. This practice has eliminated this issue for almost two decades," Montiel said.

Both of the cremated Jorge Hernandez's parents have filed separate suits against the coroner's office seeking an undisclosed amount amount in monetary compensation.

"They are culpable," said Luis Carrillo, the family's attorney, to the Daily News. "They denied this family visitation. They denied this family the chance to remember their son."

Carillo also hinted that there may have been more than one mistake with regard to labeling Hernandez's body. The complaint noted that hospital officials originally placed a tag on Hernandez' body that labeled him as a 115-year-old John Doe.

Of course, the coroner's office has been struck with a series of challenging circumstances. Years of underfunding and budget cuts have left the department chronically understaffed, and severely behind on its ability to conduct autopsies and toxicology reports in a timely manner. For example, the Times reports that as of September 21, the department had a backlog of 1,500 bodies in need of testing. In June, that number was 2,100.

"It was already tragic losing him so sudden and unknown for his passing," said Desiree Morales, Hernandez's girlfriend, to KNBC. "And then this, it's just another stab in the heart, he still can't rest."