Man dies during Cuban vacation, but family gets the wrong body

LAVAL, Quebec (AP) — A Quebec family is looking for answers after discovering that their father's remains did not come to Canada from Cuba, where he died while on vacation, but instead the remains of received another man.

The funerals for Faraj Allah Jarjour were scheduled for Sunday and Monday. Instead, his daughter Miriam Jarjour had desperately called and emailed as many officials as possible in an attempt to find his body.

“So far we don't have any answers,” Jarjour said. “Where is my father?”

Jarjour said she was swimming with her 68-year-old father in the ocean near Varadero, Cuba, on March 22 during a family vacation when he suddenly suffered a heart attack and died.

With no medical facilities available, his body was covered and left on a beach chair in the hot sun for more than eight hours until a car arrived to take it to Havana, Jarjour said.

After that it is not clear what happened.

Jarjour said she followed the Canadian consulate's instructions and paid 10,000 Canadian dollars ($7,300) to have the body returned to the family.

However, the coffin that arrived late last week contained the body of a Russian man at least 20 years younger than Jarjour's father. Unlike her father, the body also had a full head of hair and tattoos.

Jarjour said the stranger's body has been sent to his country, but she and her family do not know where her father is.

When Jarjour contacted Canadian consular authorities in Cuba, they blamed the island's company coordinating the return of the remains. Since then, she says she has emailed other government officials, including her MP, who has agreed to contact Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly.

“I'm honestly devastated,” Jarjour said. “So far we have no answers. We are waiting. I don't know what to tell you.”

Jarjour described her father as an active man who did not smoke or drink. The Syrian-born family man was “always smiling,” she said.

The ordeal left her mother exhausted, Jarjour said. She and her brother struggle with their own grief while trying to get answers from the authorities, all of whom seem to deny responsibility.

To date, the family has spent 25,000 Canadian dollars ($18,248), including 15,000 Canadian dollars ($10,950) for funeral services that have been suspended.

Global Affairs Canada said in an email that consular officials are working with Cuban authorities and the family to resolve the issue.

But Jarjour doesn't feel like she's getting the answers she needs and hopes Joly will personally intervene to put pressure on the Cuban authorities.

“What I want is for someone to help me find my father,” she said.

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