United Kingdom

Lawsuit claims Brooklyn cemetery staff tried to shove body into 'too-small' of a grave

Claribel Oppenheimer died on June 18 and was buried at the Evergreens Cemetery in Brooklyn on June 24

The family of woman whose funeral was allegedly ruined by cemetery staff trying to stuff her coffin into a far-too-small grave are suing.

Jose Semidey and Awilda Rivera filed the lawsuit against Evergreens Cemetery in Brooklyn on Friday, accusing employees of robbing their mother Claribel Oppenheimer of her dignity in her last moments.

'Having to watch the casket manhandled, damaged, opened and then placed on the grass as a backhoe is brought in to lengthen the grave while the casket is being replaced is unimaginable, and something no family should have to endure, they wrote in the suit.

The lawsuit, first obtained by New York Daily News, claims employees twisted and turned Oppenheimer's coffin to get it to fit into the plot they had dug up on June 24, until the coffin ultimately opened revealing that Oppenheimer's hands were no longer crossed. 

'The sound of scraping filled the air,' the lawsuit reads, and 'after what felt like an eternity, the coffin got stuck,' at which point the cemetery employees allegedly 'pulled the coffin from all sides, causing sounds of scratching and scraping.'

One employee reportedly tried to move the coffin with his bare hands and the laborers reportedly took the flowers off from the casket in an effort to get the casket to fit - all as Oppenheimer's grieving family watched in horror.

Her family now claims in a lawsuit obtained by the New York Daily News that the cemetery employees tried to shove her body into a plot that was too small for the coffin

Her daughter, Awilda Rivera, filed the lawsuit in Bronx Supreme Court on Friday

Eventually, Semidey reportedly asked them to stop, and a pastor asked the workers to get some tools to make the plot larger.

They then reportedly removed the coffin and laid it in the grass where it sat for an hour as they went to get a backhoe.

The pastor allegedly asked the employees if they could move the coffin back into the hearse to get it out of the heat, the lawsuit claims.

To make matters worse, the lawsuit claims, the employees yelled at the family to get out of the way of the backhoe.

The family then reportedly demanded that Oppenheimer get a new casket, as it had been damaged in the ordeal, and three hours later, her body was taken back to a funeral home and placed in a new coffin. 

Evergreens Cemetery officials did not respond to a request for comment from the Daily News

'It is inexcusable for a cemetery not to dig a grave large enough to fit the casket,' Eric Rothstein, the attorney representing Oppenheimer's family, told the Daily News.

'Having to watch the casket manhandled, damaged, opened and then placed on the grass as a backhoe is brought in to lengthen the grave while the casket is being replaced is unimaginable, and something no family should have to endure.'

Evergreens Cemetery did not respond to a request for comment from the Daily News. 

Oppenheimer was born in Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico on March 4, 1942, according to an online obituary for her. She passed away on June 18 at the age of 79. 

It is unclear what she died of. 

She is survived by 11 siblings, four children, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

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