A family shared their tragic ordeal of what happened when their father died unexpectedly while on a vacation in Spain.
The death of a loved one is always a stressful time, but if it happens while abroad on a holiday, it can often lead to uncertainty and confusion on how best to get their body back home safely.
Sisters Helen Flyng and Sharon Glover had their worst nightmares realised when after their dad, Terry, passed away unexpectedly while on holiday in Benidorm.
Sharing her story with the Mirror, Helen described how on May 22 2011 at 2pm, she received a call from her mum bearing bad news.
“My mum was ringing me to say that dad had died suddenly while on holiday,” she said. “They were exactly half way through a two week stay in Benidorm.
“We later found out that dad’s heart had gone into a fatal rhythm that was unexpected and undetected beforehand. Up until this point dad was a fighting fit 79 year old who had spent the last few years renovating and redecorating their bungalow.”
The two sisters managed to book a flight to Alicante for the same day, arriving at the airport only a few hours later at 5pm.
Helen said: “It was the strangest feeling of knowing we were going abroad but for all the wrong reasons.”
With their thoughts focused on their mother, Margaret, the two were engrossed on getting to her. They shed lots of tears on their flight but made the decision to be strong when they arrived for their mum.
Helen and Sharon arrived at The Venus Hotel in Benidorm around midnight before consoling their mum and finding out what happened.
Helen stated: “They had both just had lunch and gone back to their sunbeds planning on a lazy afternoon in the sun. Mum quickly popped back to the room and when she returned to dad she spoke to him and he didn’t answer.
“When she looked at him she said his lips were blue and she knew. Someone from the poolside spotted her distress and began performing CPR. An ambulance was called but unfortunately it was too late.”
The family found all of the relevant travel and insurance documents together in the safe where their dad had put them and began to make some calls the next morning.
Speaking of their experience, Helen said: “The insurance company were really good, empathetic and efficient. They talked me through the steps of repatriation and explained that as dad died suddenly, he would probably need an autopsy.
“This was a little hard to hear and obviously at times on the phone it was difficult to talk.
“The lady, who was Spanish talking to me in English, was very understanding and patient. She explained that we would need to register dad’s death in Spain and that it may take a few weeks before dad could be flown home but that they would arrange it all.
“We were on the phone for nearly an hour and I remember feeling relieved when the call was over.
“I remember mum being very stoic – possibly in shock – while Sharon and I were busy sharing jobs between us… booking a return flight for three; packing mum and dad’s suitcases; liaising with hotel staff to explain our plans.
“Dad used to enjoy sudoku and I remember seeing a page taken from the newspaper with a completed puzzle discarded in the bin in the hotel room. Sad, surreal reminders everywhere. I retrieved it and brought it home with me.”
Later the same day, the family took a taxi to register Terry’s death, this time they faced Spanish staff who didn’t speak English so found it to be a challenge.
Helen continued, ‘We were all experiencing waves of emotion and when one couldn’t speak, one other would step in to continue the efforts.
“We came away with papers in Spanish and had no idea what they were – the only words we understood were Terrence James Flyng fallecido (deceased). And there it was, in black and white… and Spanish.”
The body of their father was flown home two weeks later as advised by the insurance company and Terry’s funeral was held on July 13 2011. The sisters spoke to the insurance company a few times during this time period to obtain updates on what was happening.
The only hitch they found was that the death certificate featured an error, something they discovered once they had translated it.
Terry’s date of birth was listed as the date of death, something which the two recall taking a long time to correct. Following this, the next task was to sort their dad’s estate.
Helen said: “This was a mini nightmare as none of us knew exactly where key documents were. We knew they were in the bungalow somewhere and as dad dealt with all the finances mum knew very little about them.
“We never talked about death or finances or what happens in the event of. This made the job hard. Dad had an organised system but it was his system with some documents stored in one place and others in other places.
“Just when we thought we found everything, something would arrive in the post for him and we would have to make calls to find out what it was and what to do with it. This went on for months.”
When asked what advice the family would pass on to others who may find themselves in a similar situation, they put forward the following points: “Talk about death – wishes and important documents.
“Make sure you have a good Insurance policy – take it with you – or at least contact numbers.
“Try to keep calm, take notes of what needs to be done. Keep receipts of everything – the insurance company covered all our costs as long as we could prove them.
“Support each other – as a family of three we looked after and out for each other.”
What you can do if faced with the unexpected death of a loved one whilst abroad
Taking the loss of Helen and Sharon’s father, Terry, as an example, detailed below is the process to follow if a similar heart-breaking situation did happen to your family.
It’s not something that we like to think about but being aware of the process could possibly save you additional heartache and stress on top of an already emotionally taxing situation.
If a loved one dies abroad, most families will go through the process of bringing the body or ashes home for a funeral in the UK. This process is known as body repatriation.
Repatriation simply means returning the deceased to their country of origin.
If a loved one passes away when you are abroad with them, the initial step to take should be to contact the nearest British Embassy . It’s also important to note that many holiday resorts will have a welfare representative in place who will be there to support you during this distressing time.
If you’re not in a resort, then a good first step would be to inform the local police who will be able to aid you in contacting the British Embassy.
You need to register the death of a loved one in the country where they passed away. Again, the British Embassy will be able to help you with this. The death must also be registered with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK.
Bringing a body home may sound daunting but it can be a straightforward process. There are a few steps to follow:
- Firstly you need to obtain an English translation of the death certificate
- Secondly you will need granted permission to bring the body home, often done by a coroner in the country where your loved one passed away
- Following this, you will need to inform a coroner at home because if the death was sudden or not expected, an investigation will need to be conducted
- Lastly, you will need to find out if the individual was covered by repatriation insurance. If not, returning a body home is usually costly. Travel companies will often include body repatriation within their policies.
Once the body is safely returned home, the death certificate translation will need to be taken to the register office.
Speaking on the importance of travel insurance, a spokesperson for Saga said: “Whatever it is, if there is a problem on your holiday, it can be much more difficult to solve than if you were still at home.
“This is particularly true should the worst happen and a friend or family member passes away while you are abroad. Not only is this situation extremely stressful, without the appropriate travel insurance, the process to return your loved one home can be complex and costly.
“The right travel insurer will ensure you have access to the critical support you need to navigate this challenging time – giving you all the necessary time and space to grieve with your loved ones.”
For funeral notices in your area visit https://funeral-notices.co.uk/