Casket falls apart during Mesa man's burial

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By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron
By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron
By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron

MESA - Mourning the loss of a family member is tough enough but a Mesa family says it took a turn for the worse when their loved one's casket fell apart during the middle of the burial.

3TV spoke with the family exclusively. Laying a loved one to rest is a difficult thing to do but for one family, burying their father turned into a traumatizing scene straight out of a nightmare.

Robyn Gowdy, Robert Gowdy’s daughter, says, “He was a great guy, he didn’t deserve what happened.”

It was May 10, 2008 and the Gowdy family was at the Mesa Cemetery about to bury Robert, a beloved husband and father of three when Robyn says, “As the casket is being lowered all of a sudden I hear this snap and the casket falls into the grave.”

Something had gone terribly wrong. The family says the strap supporting the casket broke. It plunged into the grave and shattered into pieces as his family watched in horror. Russell Gowdy, Robert’s son, says, “I just saw my dad's dead body lying there, just his tattered corpse on broken pieces of wood.”

The day after Robert died of congestive heart failure, his wife Roxanne went to Preston Funeral Home in south Phoenix to make final arrangements. She scraped together several thousands of dollars for a solid wood renaissance model casket but then the funeral home called to say they were out of that model but would upgrade them.

When the casket shattered and her husband’s body was exposed for all to see, she says she realized that had not been the case. Roxanne explains, “It was particle wood glued together with staples and glue.”

The family says that after the casket broke there was no one from the cemetery around to help. The family is now suing the City of Mesa, which owns the cemetery, and the Preston Funeral Home.