A 26-year-old man was mistakenly cremated after a Los Angeles County Coroner's technician confused his remains with those of another man with the same name, a spokesman for the office said Friday.
Two men named Jorge Hernandez were at the morgue. One died of an accidental drug overdose earlier this month and the other was indigent and scheduled to be cremated, coroner's spokesman Armand Montiel said.
He said the mistake occurred when the coroner's attendant matched the name on the man's body but failed to check the coroner case number. That person sent the wrong remains for cremation.
"It was an oversight caused by human error," he said in a statement.
The attendant realized the mistake when the young man's mortuary arrived that same day to pick up his remains, and it was determined that his remains had already been cremated.
"It was already tragic losing him so sudden and unknown for his passing," said his girlfriend Desiree Morales. "And then this, it's just another stab in the heart, he still can't rest."
Montiel said the chief medical examiner has apologized to the young man's family.
"The department is profoundly sorry for any additional discomfort that this has caused the loved ones of Mr. Hernandez," Montiel said.
Hernandez's parents filed separate claims against the office on Thursday saying they had intended to donate his organs and were making funeral arrangements when they received the news.
"They are culpable," said Luis Carrillo, the family's attorney. "They denied this family visitation. They denied this family the chance to remember their son."
The coroner's office has been struggling to reduce a backlog in cases due to staffing shortages.
As of Sept. 21, toxicology and other tests had not been completed on more than 1,500 bodies — an improvement over June, when the figure was 2,100, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Montiel said the coroner's office has a policy requiring workers to check the name and coroner case number to make sure there are no misidentifications. He said this system has generally worked.
NBC4's Kate Larsen contributed to this report.