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No, body not ‘cremated’ by hearse fire

A message posted on Facebook in South Africa claims a hearse carrying the body of a Malawian man has been “gutted” by fire, “leaving the body cremated beyond recognition”. The post attracted thousands of views in just a few hours in December 2020. 

“The incident happened at Boland close to Paarl as the hearse belonging to undertaker company called Brokted was going to hand over the body to a Malawian undertaker in Johannesburg! The body was supposed to be buried in Thyolo District!” the message says.

Thyolo district is in southern Malawi while Paarl is in South Africa’s Western Cape province. 

Several photos of a burning white hearse were shared as evidence. 

Did this distressing incident happen as alleged?

‘Request public not to spread rumours’

A reverse image search of the photos reveals that the story was widely reported in South Africa. 

On 5 December, SABC News reported that a hearse had indeed caught fire while transporting a body to a funeral in Paarl, in the Boland region of the Western Cape. 

The undertakers were identified as Willy's and Gallico. On Facebook, the funeral service gives its address as being in Paarl. In a Facebook post on 5 December, Willy’s and Gallico gave further details of the unfortunate incident. 

Their hearse had “spontaneously” caught fire while taking the deceased to their family for last respects. The vehicle had been completely destroyed, it said. 

“However we can confirm that the driver and body of the deceased is unharmed and that the family still had the opportunity to fully view the body in order to prove this.”

The firm said it had made immediate alternative arrangements to make sure the burial went on, and the funeral had also been live streamed.

“In order to further protect and support the family we would like to request the public not to spread further rumours, but should the need arise you are free to rather share this official release.”

The photos are not of a hearse meant to transport a body to Malawi. Thyolo and Paarl are a 37-hour drive by road, according to Google Maps. The funeral would therefore not have happened in the manner claimed by the post.

Spreading false news so as to attract clicks on social media can only add to the distress of a grieving family. – Africa Check


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