A 26-year-old man has been mistakenly cremated after a Los Angeles County Coroner's technician confused his remains with those of another man with the same name, a spokesman for the coroner's office says.
The Los Angeles Times reports office spokesman Armand Montiel explained Friday that two men named Jorge Hernandez were at the morgue. One died of an accidental drug overdose earlier this month and the other was indigent and scheduled to be cremated.
The mistake occurred when the coroner's attendant matched the name on the man's body but failed to check the coroner case number, Montiel said. That person sent the wrong remains for cremation.
"It was an oversight caused by human error," Montiel said in a statement.
The attendant realized the mistake when a mortuary arrived that same day to pick up the young man's remains and discovered his body had already been cremated. Montiel said the chief medical examiner has apologized to the man's family.
"The department is profoundly sorry for any additional discomfort that this has caused the loved ones of Mr. Hernandez," Montiel said.
Hernandez's parents filed separate claims against the office Thursday, saying they had intended to donate his organs and were making funeral arrangements when they received the news.
"They are culpable," said Luis Carrillo, the family's attorney. "They denied this family visitation. They denied this family the chance to remember their son."
The coroner's office has been struggling to reduce a backlog in cases due to staffing shortages. The newspaper reports that as of Sept. 21, toxicology and other tests have not been completed on more than 1,500 bodies, down from 2,100 in June.