Quebec family says wrong body sent back after father died in Cuba

“Depressed and shocked,” says Karam Jarjour as he and his family look for answers after they say the wrong body was sent back to them following their father's death during a family vacation in Cuba. Swidda Rassy reports.

By CityNews Staff

A Quebec family from Laval, north of Montreal, is searching for answers after the body of their father they say hasn’t been sent back to them and they don’t know where it is. Faraj Jarjour, 68, died in Varadero, Cuba after having a heart attack while swimming in the ocean on March 22. It was the second day of their family vacation.

Last Friday, the family got a call from the Urgel Bourgie funeral home in Montreal, which was to receive their father’s body. That’s when they discovered the body of a Russian man about 20 years younger – with a full head of hair and tattoos – was sent back instead of Jarjour. Their father was 68 and bald.

“We are destroyed now after we’re hearing the body not my father,” said Karam Jarjour, Faraj’s son.

The family paid $10,000 to have their father’s body repatriated and at this point, have no idea where the body is.

“They called me and he told me the body with the hair and the tattoo. I told him no.” He adds that the body wasn’t even from Cuba, but another Caribbean island. “I’m shocked about that. I’m very sad to hear like, I’m waiting one month to receive my father’s body and receive another guy. So very sad about what happened. It’s not normal.”

Faraj Jarjour
Dina Ghoulam holding her husband Faraj Jarjour’s photo, with her daughter Miriam Jarjour and son Karam Jarjour in Laval. April 22, 2024. (Swidda Rassy, CityNews Image)

The Jarjour family says there was no doctor available at their hotel, and others tried to help, but their father had a severe heart attack and no one was able to revive him. They waited for hours for emergency services to arrive and take his body away. In the meantime, the body was in the hot sun on the beach.

Upon contacting the Canadian Consulate, they were informed it was closed for the weekend and they should return on Monday. Additionally, the consulate informed them they would need to pay $10,000 to repatriate Jarjour’s body to Canada.

Despite waiting three weeks, the family only received his passport and death certificate, and no body.

“Very hard, very sad. I was in a shock now, because I was in a shock before my father died, and now plus I have stressed, plus depression now. My sister now she stopped working… And I work until now because I need to make money to support my family,” explained Karam. “I pay a lot of money, me and my sister about $10,000 for the transportation, the body and like $12,000 for everything, the cover and the [funeral] salon, reception, and everything. We are in bad situation and like we are destroyed now after we’re hearing the body not my father.”

Faraj Jarjour
Photo of Faraj Jarjour and his family. (Courtesy: Jarjour family)

“My father’s like everyone in Syria know my father because he play basketball,” said Karam. “My father every day is smiling, he helped everyone like a sport guy, swim, play basketball like a good guy, a good guy. We missed him now.”

When it happened, Karam’s sister Miriam was swimming with her father. “After that I heard like screaming come to me come to me I go fast to her to see what happened. I don’t know it’s like my father died. So I went to her and we took the body it’s already dead so we took it at the beach we put it and we do the CPR with some people and lifeguards and to give him a chance to live again. No chance and no doctors came after one hour the doctor came it’s already dead the body dead my father the dead. I don’t know what to say like bad situation. No medical, no hospital, and we called like I need to someone help me the Canadian or something no one help me.”

Faraj Jarjour
Photo of Faraj Jarjour and his family. (Courtesy: Jarjour family)
Faraj Jarjour
Photo of Faraj Jarjour and his wife. (Courtesy: Jarjour family)

The family explains that they tried contacting the Canadian government multiple times and when they finally reached someone, an employee said it was not their responsibility – but that of a Asistur, Cuban medical insurance company that delivered the body. The family claims they were never in touch with that company.

CityNews reached out to Global Affairs Canada, and in an email spokesperson Charlotte MacLeod writes that they are aware of the death and that their “thoughts are with the friends and family of the deceased in these difficult circumstances.”

“Consular officials are engaged with Cuban authorities and in contact with the family to provide consular assistance. Due to privacy considerations, no further information may be disclosed.”

The Urgel Bourgie funeral home tells CityNews Montreal that it is in contact with the Cuban medical insurance company and is looking for the father’s body.

“We are waiting, no answer until now,” said Karam. “No one care about the body. Everyone send the problem to another one.”

Faraj Jarjour
Photo of Faraj Jarjour’s body covered on the beach in Cuba after his death March 22, 2024. (Courtesy: Jarjour family)

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