Case study: Bringing a body back before Christmas

In December last year, TIC was faced with the challenge of getting four deceased corporate travellers home with just two weeks to go before Christmas – from Russia, Chile, Eritrea and Zambia.

Sue Williams, business development for TIC, presented a case study on the deceased they were tasked with bringing back from Zambia. He had been the driver in a vehicle that hit an animal at sunset and died upon impact. As this was categorised as an ‘unnatural death’, a police investigation followed which was likely to delay the process of bringing his body back home.

“At this point, I made a courtesy call to the employer and the collaboration process started. I had a few reasons for calling him – firstly, it was to confirm that TIC was aware of the incident and to offer our condolences and be empathetic,” said Williams. “Also, to explain that someone from the assistance company would contact him, that documentation would be required and that he would have to be a pivotal person in the process of getting this body back home.”

Williams said the employer needed to be aware that he would be the go-between for the assistance company and the family. “He would need to manage the expectations of the family and tell them not to arrange a funeral until the deceased had been returned home.”

A critical part of the process was looking into the company’s insurance and it was discovered that there was policy that would pay the family out in the instance of an accidental death. In the policy wording, it was stated that a post-mortem needed to be done in South Africa.

“However, we knew that we would never be able to get the body out of the country without it being embalmed first. If we did that, we would be going against the stated policy, which needed to ensure the cause of death was not because of alcohol in the bloodstream and embalming would remove that evidence. If we did not stop the embalmment, the family would not have the benefit paid out,” said Williams.

TIC immediately contacted the assistance company and asked them to put everything on hold, while the employer contacted the insurer to get it in writing that the insurance company would accept post-mortem findings done in Zambia. This was approved and TIC was able to bring the deceased back before Christmas.

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