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Taylorsville funeral home gave widow wrong ashes, lawsuit alleges

Published: Tuesday, April 24 2012 9:50 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Marilynn Flynn opened the urn containing her husband's ashes for the first time while preparing for a memorial service marking one year since his death.

Flynn intended to spread some of his remains in the Sacramento Mountains near her home in Alamogordo, N.M.

But what she says she saw inside the urn stunned her: a dental bridge fragment, a dental crown and three porcelain fragments — none of which belonged to her husband.

"She feels devastated. She feels she let her husband down because she didn't secure his remains," said John Wheeler, an Alamogordo attorney representing Flynn in a federal lawsuit.

The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City alleges McDougal Funeral Homes and Independent Professional Services were negligent in handling the remains of Michael Wayne Flynn. It contends the ashes given to Marilynn Flynn could not have been those of her husband.

Mike Flynn, 59, and two other men died April 25, 2009, when the airplane he was co-piloting crashed in the Oquirrh Mountains in Tooele County. The men were traveling from Missoula, Mont., to southern New Mexico to fight a wildfire.

Marilynn Flynn positively identified her husband's remains shortly before they were cremated, Wheeler said.

After discovering the dental fragments, she questioned whether the remains were her husband's. "Mr. Flynn never had that type of dental work done," Wheeler said.

Marilynn Flynn took the fragments to a forensic dentist who determined they did not come from her husband. She also consulted with the widow of the pilot and found he had not had that kind of dental work done either, he said.

Flynn intended to combine and inter her husband's ashes with her own after she dies.

The purpose of the lawsuit is to locate Mike Flynn's remains and to find out "where the system broke down" so it doesn't happen again, Wheeler said.

McDougal Funeral Homes, 4330 S. Redwood Road, took custody of the body from the state medical examiner's office and arranged with nearby Independent Professional Services for the cremation.

Gerald Newlon, owner of Independent Professional Services, said Mike Flynn's body arrived in a "disaster pouch," which he said is typical of crash victims. An identification tag is attached, he said. Bodies are cremated one at a time.

"We don't really know what we get in the disaster pouches," Newlon said. "In a case like this, everything we get goes into the crematory."

The crematory is cleaned with a fine-bristle brush before each body goes in, he said. Workers go over the remains with magnets to remove any metals before placing them into a heavy plastic bag.

Newlon said his company's patron contract advises them of the possibility of foreign objects.

A woman who answered the phone at McDougal on Tuesday declined to comment.

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com

Twitter: dennisromboy

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