A Brooklyn man who claims he suffered the nightmare of all lost-luggage stories is demanding millions from American Airlines after it allegedly misplaced his deceased wife's body for four days.
According to the lawsuit, filed last week, the body of 57-year-old Teresa Olaya was so badly decomposed when it finally arrived in Guayaquil, Ecuador, that her grieving husband, Miguel, had to forgo a traditional open-casket funeral.
"During those days, a thousand things went through my mind," Olaya, 60, told The Post. "Where is she? Is she dumped somewhere like an animal? And I had no answers for my daughter. She would ask me, 'Where is my mami?' "
The awful saga began on March 28 when Olaya lost his wife of 26 years to pelvic cancer. He made arrangements with a Brooklyn mortuary, DeRiso Funeral Home, to fly her body back to Ecuador.
DeRiso, which is also named as a defendant in the suit, did not respond to a request for comment.
Olaya, who came to the United States in 1994, flew to Guayaquil with his 16-year-old daughter, Laura, ahead of the body to begin making arrangements.
But on April 1, when Teresa was slated to arrive on an American flight, officials at the airport had no answers for Olaya.
So he returned to the airport the following day, only to be given different - and sometimes contradictory - information. One official told him the body was in Miami, another that it was in Guatemala City.
When Teresa's body finally arrived late at night on April 4, Olaya saw that it hadn't been property refrigerated.
"When I opened the casket, it was a terrible shock," said Olaya. "I still can't get it out of my mind"
"They treated the body like a piece of baggage," said lawyer Christopher Robles, who said his client was seeking an unspecified seven-figure sum. "They didn't keep it refrigerated."
A spokeswoman for the airline said the company could not comment on pending litigation.
[Via NY Post]