Eleven days after laying his son to rest, Frank J Kerrigan got a call from a friend.
“Your son is alive,” he said.
“Put my son on the phone,” Kerrigan said. “He said ‘Hi Dad.’ ”
Orange County coroner’s officials had misidentified the body, the Orange County Register reported on Friday.
The mix-up began on May 6 when a man was found dead behind a Verizon store in Fountain Valley.
Kerrigan, 82, of Wildomar, said he called the coroner’s office and was told the body was that of his son, Frank M Kerrigan, 57, who is mentally ill and had been living on the street.
When he asked whether he should identify the body, a woman said – apparently incorrectly – that identification had been made through fingerprints.
On May 12, the family held a $US20,000 ($A26,342) funeral that drew about 50 people from as far away as Las Vegas and Washington state. Frank’s brother, John Kerrigan, gave the eulogy.
“We thought we were burying our brother,” his sister Carole Meikle said. “Someone else had a beautiful sendoff. It’s horrific.”
The body was interred at a cemetery in Orange about 150 feet from where Kerrigan’s wife is buried.
Earlier, in the funeral home, the grieving Kerrigan had looked at the man in the casket and touched his hair, convinced he was looking at his son for the last time. “I didn’t know what my dead son was going to look like,” he said.
Then came the May 23 phone call.
It was unclear how coroner’s officials misidentified the body.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department says it’s conducting an internal investigation into the mix-up and that all identification policies and procedures will be reviewed to ensure no misidentifications occur in the future.