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Son had to examine his father’s ashes to remove screws and staples – The Irish Times

A Dublin man who had to sift through his father’s ashes by removing metal screws, staples and other coffin parts left behind after an incomplete cremation process has spoken of his anguish and horror at the experience.

Sean Fox also called for greater regulation of the sector which he said could prevent other families from having a similar experience and allow those who had bad experiences to make official complaints.

His father Johnny Fox, an acclaimed athletics coach and founder of the charity Darkness Into Light, died in April and, in accordance with his wishes, was cremated at Cross Crematorium in Newland.

A portion of his ashes would be scattered in the mountains where he used to train, and a portion would be reserved to be buried next to his wife when the time comes.

His family decided to use a small amount in keepsake reliquaries, but when his son attempted to collect small amounts of ash for that purpose he found what looked like large bone fragments. While he continued searching for small grains he found screws, staples, washers and other metal pieces.

“I was so shocked that it looked like the remains of a bonfire and I felt physically sick,” Fox told The Irish Times. “It was horrible that these are my father’s remains and to treat them like this is completely disrespectful to my father.”

He said he was “struggling to talk about this” but wanted to highlight the issue. “I had to start removing the screws and staples and there were so many. “I had to put both hands in my father’s ashes and be completely disrespectful, and that will probably stay with me for the rest of my life.”

When he contacted the cemetery they told him that they had had a problem with the machine and that the remains had to be passed through it a second time. However, he noted that there was also a degree of human intervention that could have detected the problem and questioned why the magnets that are supposed to filter the metal failed.

“It shows a complete lack of respect for the entire grieving process and there is no regulator to turn to. If there were families, they could trust that end-of-life service would be appropriate, respectful, dignified and compassionate.”

In response, Dublin Cemeteries Trust said it “deeply regrets the stress and upset this situation caused the Fox family during their time of grief. “Throughout several meetings and correspondence, we apologized unreservedly to the family, expressed our deepest condolences, and offered a donation to the family charity.”

A statement added that it had ordered funeral directors to waive cremation costs. “We have carefully reviewed our processes and safeguards to ensure this does not happen again. This is a very unfortunate and very unusual incident. We are committed to following best practices at all times. Protecting the dignity of the deceased is of utmost importance to us.”

Former TD Tommy Broughan said oversight was lacking in the opening and operation of crematoriums. As a member of the Labor Party in 2012, he unsuccessfully attempted to pass legislation to create a regulatory office.

He expressed confidence in the Dublin Cemetery Trust but said the absence of a regulator meant Fox and others who had problems had nowhere to turn if things went wrong. “There has been such a gap in Irish legislation in relation to one of the most important areas of life and death, and it should be part of any Government programme.”

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