Frank Kerrigan’s life changed after two phone calls. The first notified him of his homeless son’s death, at which point he grieved and buried his eldest son and namesake. The second came about 11 days after the funeral, and on the other end of the phone was his wrongly presumed dead son.
The mix-up has spurred a lawsuit as Kerrigan and family members sought to give a proper sendoff to the not-deceased 57-year-old relative, Frank. According to CNN, the California family spent $20,000 dollars on a funeral and went through the grieving process, burying the remains near the grave of the elder Kerrigan’s wife.
When they initially received the news of Frank’s death, Kerrigan recalled feeling intense sadness. According to KABC, he never wanted to outlive any of his five children. That first phone call changed everything and confirmed his worst fear… his mentally ill son, who’d been living on the streets, was found dead.
The call came on May 6, from the Orange County, California, coroner who stated that Frank’s body was found dead next to a Verizon Wireless store in Fountain Valley. His body had been identified by fingerprints, thought officials are unsure how that happened. A death certificate was issued.
“He said through his fingerprints. You know, that’s it. My son was gone,” Kerrigan told KABC, and he was not asked to come down to the office to verify the body.
Carol Meikle, Frank’s sister, also had a very hard time with the news, rushing down to the site after she found out, to see where they said her brother had died.
“Coroner officials had told them that the younger Frank had died peacefully, but that didn’t match up with what Meikle saw,” The Orange County Register reported.
“It was a very difficult situation for me to stand at a pretty disturbing scene,” she told the newspaper. “There was blood and dirty blankets.”
According to the autopsy report, Frank died from an enlarged heart and fluid in his lungs, leaving the body “tough to recognize” during the open casket funeral. “I took a little look and touched his hair,” Kerrigan recalled. “I didn’t know what my dead son was going to look like.”
“We were putting an end to his life in the most beautiful way that we knew how to,” Meikle said.
Then, 11 days later Kerrigan received a call from a family friend and of the pallbearers during Frank’s funeral, Bill Shinker.
“Are you sitting down?” Bill reportedly said Kerrigan, then followed with, “Frankie is alive.”
“Frank gets on the phone, says, ‘Hi, Dad, how are you doing?’” the elder Frank said on NBC’s Today Show, according to CNN.
Meikel is simply angry.
“This was just blatant disregard because he was homeless, just a throwaway,” she said
Now the family wants justice. They have since hired Douglas and Brian Easton, of Easton & Easton, LLP, to file a claim alleging the coroner was negligent. “He was not given the dignity and the due-diligence in the process that a normal citizen of Orange County would get,” Meikle said to KABC.
While they are grateful Frank is alive, nothing can take back what they were put through. Then of course, there is the matter of who they actually buried.
Meanwhile, the coroner did get an identification of the person buried next to Kerrigan’s wife, but everyone is still holding out for a positive ID, considering the mistakes already made by the coroners’ office.
What an insane mix-up.
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