Wrong body cremated: NEA lifts curbs on two errant undertakers

Left: A visitor paying respects at the wake of the late Mr Kee Kin Tiong last month. Mr Kee's body was mistakenly sent to Mandai Crematorium instead of a 70-year-old man's. He was cremated according to Christian funeral rites, when he was in fact Tao
Above: A visitor paying respects at the wake of the late Mr Kee Kin Tiong last month. Mr Kee's body was mistakenly sent to Mandai Crematorium instead of a 70-year-old man's. He was cremated according to Christian funeral rites, when he was in fact Taoist. ST FILE PHOTO
Left: A visitor paying respects at the wake of the late Mr Kee Kin Tiong last month. Mr Kee's body was mistakenly sent to Mandai Crematorium instead of a 70-year-old man's. He was cremated according to Christian funeral rites, when he was in fact Tao
Above: An urn containing Mr Kee's ashes. ST FILE PHOTO

After mix-up, they have taken steps to ensure bodies are properly identified

The National Environment Agency (NEA) yesterday lifted its curbs on two local undertakers that had sent the wrong body for cremation after they took measures to ensure proper identification for bodies.

Funeral services firm Harmony Funeral Care will be able to use the after-death facilities at Mandai Crematorium and Choa Chu Kang Crematorium and Cemetery again, and funeral parlour Century Products Company's licence is no longer suspended.

The NEA said the two firms have put in place measures to ensure proper identification for bodies throughout the funeral process.

Century Products Company, which had embalming facilities where the two bodies in the incident were kept, has complied with the NEA's stipulations on maintaining a register to track the movement of bodies in and out of its premises.

It has also put in place a system to identify bodies received and removed from its premises, with controlled access in and out.

But the NEA will still implement further enforcement action against Century Products Company for not keeping proper records of bodies. For failing to maintain proper records, it could be fined $1,000 for its first offence, or $2,000 for any subsequent offence.

The cremation mix-up occurred on Dec 30 last year when an employee of Harmony Funeral Care sent the body of the late Mr Kee Kin Tiong, 82, to Mandai Crematorium, instead of the body of a 70-year-old man.

Mr Kee was cremated according to Christian funeral rites, when he was in fact Taoist.

Following the incident, the NEA on Jan 4 barred Harmony Funeral Care from using the government's after-death facilities at Mandai Crematorium and Choa Chu Kang Crematorium and Cemetery, after the funeral services company was found not to have put in place sufficient measures to ensure the proper handling of the body.

At the time, the NEA also suspended the licence of Century Products Company for not keeping proper records of bodies received or removed from its premises.

Last month, the Kee family engaged Mr Andrew Wong and Mr Patrick Tan from Fortis Law to serve legal letters on Harmony Funeral Care, a Harmony employee named Mr Nicholas Ang Kai, Century Products Company, and Tan Khiam Soon Undertaker, demanding public apologies and compensation.

 
 
 

The NEA has since conducted a series of interviews and spot checks on both Century Products Company and Harmony Funeral Care.

"Through these submissions, interviews and inspections, the NEA is satisfied that the required measures have been put in place in both companies and their staff are adequately trained to prevent recurrence of a similar lapse," the NEA said in a statement yesterday.

"Following the lifting of the suspension and debarment respectively, NEA will place Century Products Company under close surveillance to ensure that they are putting into practice what they have submitted in their plan."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2020, with the headline 'NEA lifts curbs on two errant undertakers'. Print Edition | Subscribe