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Devastated daughter forced to leave mother's coffin on graveside after digger scoop falls in ditch

Devastated daughter forced to leave mother's coffin on graveside after digger scoop falls in ditch

A family says they were devastated when they arrived for their late mother’s funeral, only to find her grave still being dug by a digger.

Mourners gathered to say goodbye to Joan Stokoe at the Grangetown, Sunderland venue 15 minutes before it was due to begin, but were instead forced to sit in their cars and wait.

When Kelly Smith, Mrs Stokoe’s daughter, arrived she was also told that the backhoe’s shovel had fallen into her mother’s grave and that a second machine was being used in an attempt to retrieve the broken part.

Relatives waited more than an hour for the funeral to begin.

In the end, they were given the choice of either leaving the coffin on the nearby grass to be buried after the backhoe was finished, or leaving Mrs Stokoe in the rest chapel and holding the service the following day.

The family came to their late mother's memorial service at Grangetown Cemetery, in Sunderland, only to find that part of the backhoe had fallen into her grave, delaying her funeral.

The family came to their late mother’s memorial service at Grangetown Cemetery, in Sunderland, only to find that part of the backhoe had fallen into her grave, delaying her funeral.

Distraught, Mrs. Smith said, “I’m foaming all over, we’re all so upset.

“We decided to have her buried after they sorted the grave because we didn’t want to go through it again.

‘It was really harrowing, we couldn’t give her a proper goodbye. I just don’t understand why the grave wasn’t ready, it’s ridiculous.’

Ms Smith, 46, from Hendon in Sunderland, said her mother, who died last month at age 66, was finally buried sometime on Monday afternoon, but diggers were still seen next to her grave as of 6pm.

She added: ‘The vicar and the undertaker were brilliant but we were disappointed in the Council – it’s a shame.

“We didn’t have a good goodbye and she didn’t get the goodbye she deserves.”

Mrs Stokoe is pictured sitting at the wedding of her daughter Kelly and son-in-law Stephen, with grandson Billy in the back

Mrs Stokoe is pictured sitting at the wedding of her daughter Kelly and son-in-law Stephen, with grandson Billy in the back

Sunderland City Council has since told the family that they will not have to pay for the funeral and will also receive a written apology.

Assistant Director of Community Resilience, Sandra Mitchell, said: “We fully understand that this was a rare, regrettable and unfortunate incident.

“Staff are angry at what has happened and everyone who works at Sunderland Cemetery offers their condolences and apologies.

“We’re working with the family to ease their concerns.”

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