Sunday 25 August 2019

Widow's horror after pall bearers drop husband's coffin and run off


Eleanor Steafel

A widow watched in horror as pall bearers dropped her husband's coffin into his grave before running from the scene.

Debbie Swales screamed and fell to the ground as pall bearers let the coffin carrying her husband Gavin slip from their grasp and smash open.

Mrs Swales, 47, said the men ran off as her distressed sons Gavin and Dean were left to remove their father's body from the grave.

Mrs Swales told how she collapsed in shock at the side of her husband's grave after the lid of his coffin was smashed open.

She said: "I screamed when I saw the coffin drop and had to be taken to the ambulance. I was traumatised and so were the kids.

"There were gravediggers who shouted at the pall bearers as they ran off, they were saying 'give him some dignity'.

"I was seen by paramedics and a priest. I just screamed and the next thing I knew I was in the ambulance."

Mrs Swales, from Newcastle, told how her sons could see their father's face through the broken lid of the coffin.

She said: "There was a slight cut to his cheek, and the blue lining in the coffin was ripped."

"My two youngest children were distraught. My sons managed to get him out of the grave and put him right before we got him to the hearse.

"There were no apologies from the funeral director, they left my kids to deal with it."

Mrs Swales and her five children were forced to hold a second funeral for Gavin, who died last month of leukaemia, 24 hours after the first.

"We were so nervous in case anything else went wrong, it was absolutely traumatic," she said.

Funeral donations in memory of Mr Swales to the Bright Red charity, which helps people with blood cancer, have come to more than £4,000.

Mrs Swales has called for more people to join the Organ Donor Register, after Gavin's life was prolonged with two bone marrow transplants.

She said: "Gavin had two bone marrow transplants and it gave him another two-and-a-half years, we will always remember that time."

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