BUSHNELL, Fla. (WFLA) — For the second time in the past year, a deceased widow was interred with the wrong late husband at Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell.
Salutes of 21 guns are common at the hallowed grounds where it is an earned honor for veterans and their spouses to be laid to rest.
But last August, cremains of a woman were mistakenly mixed with the wrong veteran’s cremains.
This summer, there was another mistake. A woman’s casket was found in a crypt with the wrong late husband. Attempts to get comments from the families involved have been unsuccessful.
Local morticians who were contacted by 8 On Your Side opted out of discussing the mix-ups due to their working relationships with Bushnell.
Jack Hales, who specializes in cemetery and funeral home negligence, called the mistakes “horrendous.”
“It’s a very special type of trust that you’re giving and it opens that floodgate for what else was wrong,” Hales said. “If they say they fixed it, can I trust that fix really happened.”
The most recent mistake was discovered in June. A Tampa Bay area woman who was almost 80 died with plans in place to be buried with her late husband. But when his grave vault was opened, there was already a second casket inside.
VA Press Secretary Terrence Hayes said the spouses had “similar” names.
“During the scheduling of a subsequent burial of a Veteran’s spouse, we discovered the already interred remains of an unclaimed spouse with a similar name as the Veteran’s spouse,” Hayes said in an emailed statement.
The June mix-up was found in Section 628, where the wrong spouse was interred in the grave about three years ago.
Those remains were replaced by the correct spouse and laid to rest again with a veteran believed to be the actual late husband, who was buried in a different section.
According to the VA, the ashes involved in last summer’s mistake were separated after they were comingled.
Several experts said cremains are often different colors but they added it would be very difficult to accurately separate sets of ashes.
Hayes said the families tied to the June incident were notified.
“We resolved the matter quickly, sincerely apologized to the family, and worked closely with them to honor their wishes and pay tribute to their beloved Veteran,” Hayes said.
There are no records indicating complaints about either mistake were filed with the Florida Division of Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services.
According to Hales, laws for this type of alleged negligence vary from state to state and he said the issue is not covered by federal law.
“There’s really no federal protection,” Hales said. “If you look for federal rules regarding funeral homes and cemeteries. It doesn’t address what about mishandling my loved one’s remains.”