Parents' grief as baby's grave too narrow for coffin

3:16pm Monday 7th February 2011

A GRIEVING couple watched in horror as repeated efforts were made to lower their baby son's coffin into a grave that was too narrow.

Kelly Tullius and David Mahoney had to enlist the help of a council worker who climbed into the hole to widen it during their son Dee-Jay Cruz Mahoney's funeral service.

Dee-Jay, four weeks and six days old when he passed away from cot death, was buried at Durham Road Cemetery, Stockton.

Pallbearers struggled several times to lower his coffin into the ground until the intervention of the council worker.

Ms Tullius said: "I don't think he has been put to rest properly.

"Every time I go to see him I just picture what happened that day."

She says she felt "numb" as she and Mr Mahoney, 35, watched the council worker climb into their son's grave to make it seven inches wider.

The 29-year-old of Hardwick, Stockton, said: "They tried four times to get him in before they shouted a council man, who was doing work in the area, over.

"He got in the hole and had to dig three times before the coffin actually fit. All our family and friends were just stood there watching.

"The man from the funeral directors said he has been doing this for 13 years and he had never seen anything so sad in all his life."

Ms Tullius has made a formal complaint to Stockton Borough Council.

James Dooley, the council's bereavement services officer, said: "We sincerely apologise for any distress caused to Ms Tullius and her family and offer our condolences for her very sad loss.

"It appears the wet ground conditions caused the movement of soil which was not immediately recognisable to cemetery staff.

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