One day, one of our partner insurance companies announced to us the death of one of its clients due to a drowning on the remote Micronesian island of Chuuk. The deceased in question was a very young person, and a British citizen who lived near Manchester. The death had occurred at sea, and the body was transported by local authorities to the nearest hospital.
Following the request, we at Servizi Funebri Pozzoli immediately began the procedures necessary for the repatriation. Unfortunately, there were no embassies or funeral homes in Micronesia that could help us – however, thanks to our international experience, knowledge, and network, this was surmountable.
There were three main challenges in conducting the repatriation:
• Casket – In Micronesia, it is not the custom to bury the deceased in a coffin; therefore, after a long search, we had to procure a casket that complied with international regulations from a local craftsman; under less challenging circumstances, we would have considered sending a casket directly from our headquarters in Italy
• Documentation – As already mentioned, there are no consular representatives on the island, and the nearest UK authority was thousands of kilometres away. Consequently, after the autopsy, the necessary documentation was drawn up by the hospital staff – who were very accurate and punctual
• Flight – The only two international airlines that arrive in Micronesia are Korean Airlines and United Airlines. We therefore consulted the two companies and chose the most reliable and most cost-effective one by dealing directly with the airline’s headquarters.
After just less than two weeks, we were able to seal the casket and transport it to the airport, where the body left the island – travelling to London via Guam, Honolulu, and New York. The return journey, despite the stopovers, was very quick – we technically gained a day by crossing the international date line.
Once the body arrived in London, our English partner received the coffin at the airport, and finally transported it home. Throughout the process, we maintained constant, daily contact with both the insurance company and the family – who had returned to the UK as soon as the death occurred.
The repatriation of the body was the first of its type to be done from that island in about three years. Additionally, the mission was one of the longest distances in which Servizi Funebri Pozzoli has ever had to conduct a repatriation.