Woman's cremated ashes washed away in fire

COLMA, Calif.

The Hernandez family of San Francisco was ready to hold a service Wednesday morning to celebrate the life of someone who was a mother, grandmother, and even great grandmother, who would have turned 98 years old on Wednesday. Instead, the family is sad, angry, and are at a loss at how to memorialize her life.

The family took us to the place where they believe the ashes of their grandmother washed away, the crematorium at Cypress Lawn Cemetery in Colma.

"Grieving all over again. We thought we could put my grandmother to rest and now we don't. We don't know where she's at," said Sandra Hernandez-Perez, a granddaughter.

Rita Barraza De Aguirre died in March and was cremated, her ashes stored in the crematorium until the family could have a service. But last Wednesday morning a three-alarm fire broke out as two other bodies were being cremated. On Monday, the family got a call from the cemetery saying the ashes of their 97-year-old matriarch and 15 other people were washed away by fire hoses needed to put out the flames.

"We were prepared to do the ceremony for my grandmother so right now we're speechless and dumbfounded as to the loss," said Hector Hernandez, a grandson.

The plan was to keep her remains next to her late husband Eduardo who's now buried in Mexico and would have been moved to Cypress Lawn.

"I promised my mother because my mother said, 'If I die, I want my husband to be with me.' I promised I'd bring my father," said Refugio Hernandez, a daughter.

The family says they were led to believe the ashes were being stored in a main cemetery building on the other side of El Camino Real.

According to press reports, after the fire, the cemetery president said there were no other remains being stored at the crematorium. On Tuesday night, he sent ABC7 News an email saying he would comment on Wednesday.

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