If there is something worse, I don’t want to imagine it: finding your father dead on the floor. But what happened next to one South Florida man was horrible. Now the question: is it legal what he was asked to do? And for the answer he called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
There is no doubt: It would be the worst moment of anyone’s life.
Bernie Alfonso: “I went to the bathroom and discovered he was on the floor and, immediately, I tried to resuscitate him, you know ,shake him up. He was still warm. He was still soft. He was not hard.”
On the bathroom floor was was Bernie’s father, Bernardo Alfonso.
Bernie Alfonso: “He was actually dead at the time I found him. The rescue came, they checked him and they had explained to me he had passed away.”
Bernie and his father were very close. Bernie even lived in his father’s house.
Bernie Alfonso: “I knew the day would come. I would lose my dad he was 86 years of age. I did not expect him — no matter how prepared you are you are never prepared, so it was a shock.”
After the police and fire rescue left, Bernie called the funeral home his father had prepaid to handle his burial. The removal service quickly showed up.
Bernie Alfonso: “There was only one person. This is odd. My father is a big man. How is this other man going to manage to pick him up off the ground and do what he needs to do?”
As his late father laid on the bathroom floor, the employee began to explain.
Bernie Alfonso: “I need to transport your father. In order to do this, I need to wrap him in a blanket, put him in a body bag because during transport bodily fluids will leak. And I thought to myself ‘I really didn’t need to hear that.'”
Hearing that was bad. The next words, to Bernie, were worse.
Bernie Alfonso: “What put me in a completely sense of numbness was when he asked if I would help him. And I said ‘Help you do what?’ And he said ‘Can you help me wrap your father and put him inside the body bag?'”
The thought of putting his beloved 86-year-old father in a body bag and closing it up stunned Bernie.
Bernie Alfonso: “I did not want to live with the image of seeing my father leave in a body bag and much less being the one to assist putting him in there. I can’t imagine what that would be like and I don’t want to imagine.”
Bernie went outside. A friend helped the removal company employee put his father in the body bag and he was taken away.
Bernie Alfonso: “Why they only sent one person? I really have no idea. He made it sound like he was trying to get here quickly.”
If they were rushing to be nice, was wiped out by asking Bernie to help put his father into a body bag and closing it up.
Bernie Alfonso: “It is — it’s extremely disturbing. It is disturbing. That has anguished me more than anything else can, except losing my father.”
Well Howard, is it ok for a company to ask you to help them put a loved one in a body bag?
Howard Finkelstein: “This is a horrible thing to ask a grieving son to do, but you cannot sue the removal service for emotional distress and get money. However, you can file a complaint with the state who can fine the carrier or take away their license for incompetence or misconduct. And only sending one person to collect a dead body fits into those categories.”
We contacted the funeral home. A spokesperson told us they had hired another company to transport for the Alfonso family. We are now working with them to insure this type of incident does not happen again.
We contacted the removal service. The owner told us two people were sent to pick up bernardo, but one was sick and stayed in the van. Bernie says that’s a lie. The driver even told him his helper never came to work that day.
A representative with the state agency that regulates funeral homes and cemeteries asked Bernie to file to contact them and file a complaint so they can investigate the incident.
Bernie Alfonso: “I just want to make sure they are not doing this to another person.”
That’s why Bernie called us, to let people know this happened and to make sure it doesn’t happen to their family.
Bernie Alfonso: “It’s nothing else but mental anguish. It is extremely disturbing. It has cost me lots of restless nights, nightmares added to the grief. I hope no one else is ever put in this type of situation.”
Patrick Fraser: Florida’s Division of Funeral and Cemetery Services tightly regulates cemeteries, funeral homes, monument companies. So if you are not happy with any of those companies, file a complaint to help the next person.
No bad puns when it comes to a death. Not the time to try to be clever when someone passing away, but if you have a problem you want us to help with, send it our way. With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser 7News.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Florida’s Division of Funeral and Cemetery Services
CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
E-mail: email@example.com (please include your contact phone number when e-mailing)
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at firstname.lastname@example.org