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

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Daughter was forced to wait for her mother’s grave to be dug on day of her funeral after digger scoop fell in the ditch and machine to remove it broke down – before being told she would have to leave coffin on grass nearby

  • Relatives of Joan Stokoe, 66, gathered for her funeral in Sunderland on Monday
  • But mourners were horrified to find diggers on site still unearthing her grave 
  • They waited an hour before being asked if they wanted to leave coffin on grass 
  • Ms Stokoe’s daughter Kelly said: ‘I’m absolutely foaming, we are all so upset’

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

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

As Ms Stokoe’s daughter Kelly Smith arrived, she was also told the scoop from the digger had fallen into her mother’s grave and a second machine was used in an attempt to retrieve the part had broken down.

Family members waited over an hour for the funeral to start.

Eventually, they were given the option of either leaving the coffin on nearby grass to be buried after the digger was done or to lay Mrs Stokoe in the chapel of rest and have the service the following day.

The family turned up to their late mother's memorial service at Grangetown Cemetery, in Sunderland, only to find a digger part had fallen into her grave, delaying her burial

The family turned up to their late mother’s memorial service at Grangetown Cemetery, in Sunderland, only to find a digger part had fallen into her grave, delaying her burial

Distraught Ms Smith said: ‘I’m absolutely foaming, we are all so upset.

‘We decided to leave her to be buried after they sorted the grave because we didn’t want to go through it all over again.

‘It was really distressing, we couldn’t give her a proper send off. I just can’t understand why the grave wasn’t ready, it’s ridiculous.’

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

She added: ‘The Reverend and undertaker were brilliant but we were disappointed with the Council – it’s a disgrace.

‘We couldn’t say goodbye properly and she didn’t get the send off she deserves.’

Ms Stokoe is pictured seated at her daughter Kelly and son-in-law Stephen's wedding, with grandson Billy at back

Ms Stokoe is pictured seated at her daughter Kelly and son-in-law Stephen’s wedding, with grandson Billy at back

Sunderland City Council has since told the family that they don’t need to pay for the burial and they will also be sent a written apology.

Assistant Director of Community Resilience, Sandra Mitchell said: ‘We very much understand how this was a rare, regrettable and unfortunate incident.

‘Staff are upset about what happened and everyone who works at Sunderland  Cemetery offers their sympathies and apologies.

‘We are working with the family to address their concerns.’

Mail Online has contacted Sunderland City Council for further comment. 

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