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Lawsuit: Funeral home gave Albertson woman the wrong ashes

An Albertson woman and her brother who had hoped to travel to India with their father's ashes for a sacred Hindu ceremony have sued a Long Island funeral home for mistakenly giving his cremated ashes to another family.

The actions of Moloney Family Funeral Homes Inc. kept Susan Sharma and her brother, Sunil Sharma of North Carolina, from performing the ritual of immersing the ashes of their father, Sarup Sharma, in India's Ganges River, according to the lawsuit, filed Aug. 13 in State Supreme Court in Nassau County.

The Ganges River, Hindus believe, washes away the sins of mortals, breaks the cycle of life and death, and allows the soul to begin its final journey toward heaven.

Sarup Sharma died on Feb. 3, 2017 at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center in Queens, according to the lawsuit. His children hired Moloney Family Funeral Homes to provide funeral and cremation services and care for their father's ashes until the family could make the trip to India.

After Susan Sharma and her brother told Moloney officials of their planned trip, the funeral home, on Nov. 28, 2017, informed them of the mix-up and said the other family had already scattered their father's ashes, according to the lawsuit.

Funeral home officials did not explain to the brother and sister how the mistake occurred, said Oscar Michelen of Mineola, the attorney for the family. The error has caused Susan Sharma and her brother “mental anguish," said the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified monetary damages.

“The [funeral home] was negligent, reckless and otherwise careless in its care and custody of Sarup Sharma’s remains,” the lawsuit said.

Sometime after Sept. 10, 2017, the lawsuit said, the family of another man, Shashi Sharma, came to pick up his ashes, which were also kept at the Lake Ronkonkoma location of Moloney Family Funeral Homes.

That's when the funeral home gave his family the wrong ashes, according to the lawsuit.

Shashi Sharma’s family, also Hindu, took the ashes to India, believing they were his, and scattered them in the Ganges River.

Owners of Moloney Family Funeral Homes, F. Daniel Moloney Jr. and Peter G. Moloney, declined to comment and referred questions to their public relations firm.

In a statement, Katherine Heaviside, a spokeswoman for the funeral home, which has seven Long Island locations, said funeral home officials apologized to both families.

“We have reviewed all of our procedures and have taken steps to strengthen our protocols further to ensure that we maintain the full trust and confidence of the families we serve, as we have for the last 85 years,” Heaviside's statement said.

The statement, however, did not explain how the mistake occurred or whether Shashi Sharma's ashes were returned to his family.

Susan Sharma declined to comment and efforts to reach relatives of Shashi Sharma on Monday were unsuccessful.

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