Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Two pals from Ireland passed away in Florida due to a harmful drug called fentanyl. The officials mentioned that they mistakenly cremated the incorrect person

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Florida officials made a mistake with the bodies of two Irish men who died from drug overdoses. The mix-up happened because the labels on their bodies got switched, and as a result, the wrong person was cremated.

Kane Mitchell, 30, and Luke Comiskey, 31, passed away in April 2022 after taking drugs with fentanyl. They were living together in Pinellas Park, near St. Petersburg. Their employer found them dead in their apartment when they didn’t show up for work.

A Florida funeral home sent the men’s remains to Ireland, and one was cremated as requested by the families. However, after three months, the families noticed mistakes in the autopsy reports. It turns out Mitchell was buried in Comiskey’s family plot, and Comiskey was cremated, opposite to what the families wanted.

The error happened when the labels on their bodies got mixed up during the process, according to William Pellan, director of Investigations at the District Six Medical Examiner Office. The mistake was discovered in July after the families raised concerns.

In August 2022, a letter revealed that the ashes initially thought to be of Kane Mitchell were actually those of Luke Comiskey. The District Six Medical Examiner Office expressed regret for the mix-up, acknowledging the pain the families went through due to the misidentification and burial in the wrong plot.

The alleged drug dealer, James Richard Peoples III, 35, was arrested last month on two counts of first-degree murder. He communicated with one victim, offering “powder,” likely cocaine, in text messages. Peoples admitted selling narcotics but denied providing the fentanyl. The public defender’s office representing Peoples declined to comment, and his next court hearing is scheduled for March 18.

The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs is aware of the case, offering consular assistance to the families without disclosing further details. The families were unaware of how long Luke and Mitchell lived in Florida or their employment status.

The mix-up was discovered three months later when the toxicology report cited fentanyl toxicity as the cause of death. The families received autopsy reports in July 2022, revealing the error.

The letter said they found some mistakes in the details about the bodies in the autopsy. They told the medical examiner’s office about it on August 12, 2022, after two weeks.

By looking at digital photos, old documents, and checking the injuries and tattoos, the medical examiner’s office realized the bodies were labeled wrong. The letter didn’t say exactly when the mix-up happened.

The letter mentioned, “It’s highly likely that the two deceased people were labeled wrong either when they died or when they were taken to the Medical Examiner Office.”

Because of this big mistake, autopsy reports were made with the wrong names, and more importantly, the bodies were released with the wrong names on their ID labels.

The District Six Medical Examiner Office didn’t reply to CNN’s request for more information. In an email to CNN, they said the cases of the victims are being actively investigated as criminal cases.

Pellan, from the Medical Examiner Office, wrote in his letter in August that they started investigating as soon as the families told them about the problem. He also assured the families that any costs because of this mistake would be covered by his office. He mentioned talking to the families and the funeral homes in Ireland about the situation.

Plans were being made to dig up Mitchell’s body to confirm his identity using tattoos and DNA analysis, Pellan wrote in August 2022. He said they were ready to send their forensic experts to Dublin on the day of the exhumation to help confirm the victims’ identities.

CNN couldn’t find out if the body was exhumed and identified. Pellan didn’t reply to CNN’s request for a comment.

Authorities are warning about the dangers of using fentanyl. Fentanyl is much stronger than morphine, a common painkiller. While it’s used for medical purposes, like helping cancer patients in severe pain, illegal labs also make it. This has led to a lot of overdose deaths.

A report from February stated that from 2003 to 2020, people who died in Florida were 63% more likely to have died from a drug overdose compared to those in other states. The report reviewed over 47 million US death certificates.

In 2022, Florida’s Department of Law Enforcement shared that there were 6,157 deaths linked to opioids. This was a 4% drop from the year before. Pinellas Park Chief of Police, Adam Geissenberger, expressed concern about the tragic impact of fentanyl abuse and promised to vigorously pursue justice to protect the community.

Following these deaths, people in the Irish community in New York, where the two men had spent time, organized a memorial service in May 2022 at St. Barnabas Church in the Bronx. Friends shared stories and memories about the two men, both considered close pals.

One friend lightened the mood by mentioning Comiskey’s good looks, saying that men would pull their women closer when he entered a room. He described Comiskey as a loyal friend who excelled in Gaelic football, soccer, and boxing. Comiskey loved playing the guitar and had traveled to various countries, including Australia and Spain.

Mitchell was remembered as a versatile person who loved the outdoors. He was enthusiastic about fishing and camping, even setting up a tent in nature during rainy days.

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