Dealing with death is never easy. It is even more difficult in a foreign country where you do not know the procedures, the customs or speak the language. This is compounded by the emotional state you are in when people are bombarding you with questions.
Recently at TAO, we had an unfortunate and unexpected death. I am providing this general information on the process when someone dies in Mexico so that you can be knowledgeable about the system should you ever need to know for yourself or to assist someone else.
When someone has an accident or dies at TAO, immediately call the TAO security at the gate 984-688-2609. The emergency telephone numbers for TAO are being posted in the next post. The State of Quintana Roo also has 911 police emergency call service.
Grab a piece of paper and start writing down the time when each event happens. You will need this later for the police interview for the sequence of events. By then exact times might be difficult to remember.
TAO security has a list of property managers for each rented unit so they can contact the appropriate property manager if your unit is rented.
DO NOT move, touch or clean up anything where the accident happened. Stay away from the entire area.
When the ambulance and paramedics arrive, the paramedics will check for vital signs, provide CPR or other emergency services or pronounce the person dead. If the person is pronounced dead, the paramedics will call the local municipal police. In the case of a sudden, unexplained death the police must be involved.
The paramedics will prepare a report on their assessment, time called and basic information like name, age, and nationality of the deceased. No one can touch the body or be in the accident area until the municipal police arrive.
The municipal police will cordon off the area with yellow police tape. The police will interview people at the scene who witnessed or were involved in the accident or death of the person. No one can enter the cordoned area. The police will make a detailed report and question anyone involved. This is the first official interview about what happened. This detailed interview will involve questions such as: how did it happen; were you present when it happened; when was the last time you saw the person alive; what time did it happen; date of birth; age; marital status; is the person and owner or a guest; next of kin contact information; medication being taken; last time medications were taken; what was the person wearing; plus other questions. The police will need to see the passport and immigration card. They also need copies of the birth certificate and if appropriate, the marriage license.
Local police may not speak English. You are wise to have someone available to call that can translate for you. You should call your country Embassy or Consulate nearest you in Mexico. They will often send someone to translate and support you in the process.
The police are in charge of the body. Once a person dies they not longer have legal control of their body. So someone has to claim the body and take responsibility.
If the municipal police determine that the death is not suspicious and there has been no attempt to alter the scene, then the mortuary can pick up the body and take it to the hospital to be pronounced dead. Then it is taken to the funerary.
Or if the cause of death is not obvious, you can have a private doctor come to the scene and perform an examination. If the doctor can determine the reason why the person died then the body can be released to the funerary.
If the police determine that there has been any attempt to alter the accident scene, like wiping up blood off the floor, moving the body or washing the person’s face, then the place is considered a crime scene and the Crime Investigation Unit is called.
The Crime Investigation Unit will conduct another, more intense interview and try to match up all the information provided by the paramedics and municipal police. Any inconsistencies are flagged. This is where it is helpful to have written down the time events happened. This specialized team takes pictures of the scene.
Crime Investigation Unit personnel rarely speak English. A translator is definitely required. Their questioning includes a repetition of earlier questions plus questions like: who wiped up the blood; why was blood wiped up; who has been in the area; whose are shoe prints or fingerprints at the scene; what was the person wearing; how were the hands and feet positioned; was the person moved; why was the person moved and more.
The funerary will have been called by the police. They will take the body away as soon as it is released by the police. If the Crime Investigation Unit has been involved the funerary will take the body to the police morgue. If there has been no Crime Investigation then the body can be taken to the funerary. You may have the body taken to any funerary you want. It is wise to request a funerary that is experienced in international deaths and repatriation of the deceased ‘s body.
An autopsy must be performed in all cases of undetermined, suspicious deaths. This will take at minimum one day.
The police will keep the body until it is identified and claimed by a family member. In order to claim the body, you must have your birth certificate, your passport and if the spouse, the marriage license to show police. Only one person can claim the body. Only one person can be present for the completion of the interview and signing of documentation for the body.
Once the body is claimed the funerary can pick up the body.
List of documentation you should have when you travel:
- Birth certificate
- Immigration card
- Marriage certificate
- Names and contact information for next of kin
Thanks to Tanya for filling in the details.
Watch for a following postwith a List of the Emergency Number for TAO.Print it off and tack it on the frig.