American Airlines typo dispatches corpse to Guatemala

Can't tell its GUAs from its GYElbow


A Brooklyn widower is rattling the sabre of litigation at American Airlines after it sent the body of his deceased wife to Guatemala, rather than her native Ecuador.

Miguel Olaya's wife Teresa died in March at the age of 57, and he accordingly asked DeRiso Funeral Home in Bay Ridge to make arrangements for her body to touch down in Guayaquil. He and his daughter flew ahead to organise the funeral, but quickly discovered his missus had gone AWOL.

Olaya told the New York Daily News: "When I got to the airport to pick up the body, they told me they didn't know where she was. I was desperate."

For four days, Olaya and his 16-year-old daughter drove to the airport - in vain. He explained: "My daughter was crying, saying, 'Where's mama, where's mama?'"

Finally, American Airlines informed the pair that Teresa was actually in Guatemala City - 1,400 miles from the intended burial site. She eventually arrived on 4 April but, according to Cathy DeRiso of the funeral home, American Airlines then asked for an extra $321 for its trouble.

DeRiso insisted she'd given the airline the correct destination, an assertion subsequently proved correct when American Airlines discovered some bright spark had typed in the wrong airport code - GUA for Guatemala rather than GYE for Guayaquil.

Although the carrier then waived the extra charge, Olaya on Monday filed suit demanding satisfaction. His lawyer, Richard Villar, said: "How could they lose a body? I mean this is American Airlines, not a small-time operation. And it's not like it was a purse or something."

Olaya is also suing DeRiso, "claiming that the body was badly embalmed and decomposed in the Guatemala City airport - canceling plans for a three-day wake". DeRiso denied the charge, while American Airlines declined to comment on the whole sorry affair. ®

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