A West Michigan woman who had her sister’s ashes shipped to Michigan was horrified by the damaged package that arrived in the mail.
"I could not believe what I was seeing: ashes, bones, all around the edges of the package. It was just full," said Janice Martin.
The Fremont woman’s sister lived in California and passed away in early February. "I just wanted to hug her, and I couldn't do that; I was horrified."
Janice paid to have her sister cremated and asked her nephew to ship the ashes to Michigan. On February 24, he took the container to a post office in Elk Grove, California. That’s where Janice says her nephew was told to ship it overnight for $69. "Everything was intact when he sent it. She said that's all you do, put it in there, whatever. With cremated remains stickers all over the box, I would think it would have gotten here in better condition."
At some point, the box was punctured. The force caused several layers of packaging to be damaged: "through a cardboard box, plastic box, canvas bag, and a plastic bag, all overnight."
You can see that someone put postal tape all over the box, and tried to cover the hole. Janice contacted the cremation service, who says it will consider using a metal container next time, but added that it's never had a package damaged like this. Janice also had her nephew contact the post office. "He told me Elk Grove postal service was going to investigate it, but he hasn't heard back."
13 On Your Side also contacted the US Postal Service. We sent pictures and the tracking number. Sabrina Todd from the USPS Greater Michigan District says she investigated the case. She says she talked to the clerk at the Elk Grove office, who said the box came to her already sealed.
She went on to say USPS does have guidelines for shipping remains. It must be packaged in three layers, including an optional sift-proof container. In Janice's case, the nephew included it all in the package. Obviously, it wasn't enough to prevent a sharp object from puncturing the containers.
Janice says this is not something anyone should have to deal with, especially when they’re grieving the death of a loved one. "I'm just going to miss her, a lot," she said of her sister.
Sabrina Todd says the Postal Service has been unable to determine how or where the package was damaged. This is part of her written response: "The Postal Service sincerely apologizes for the damage of this package. While this type of damage is rare, that does not excuse the condition of the box received."
Todd says the Elk Grove office has left a message with Janice's nephew to offer a refund his money.