A tombstone killed a man who was hanging Easter decorations, crushing the 74-year-old while his horrified wife watched on.
The tragic incident happened in Saint Joseph Cemetery in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Police said the top of the tombstone came off its base, crushing and killing the man, who was identified as Stephan Woytack.
“It landed across his waist and it pinned him,” said police officer Andy Kerecman. “It probably moved some of his internal organs up because he was blue, so it probably suffocated him or caused internal injuries.”
The man’s wife, Lucy Woytack, tried in vain to lift the tombstone off her husband, then ran for help.
“She literally, when it fell over, she ran and they’re in their 70s — 74, 73. She probably ran a good 200 yards because the caretaker just happened to come to the cemetery,” Kerecman said.
Lucy said there was no way her husband could have avoided the falling tombstone.
“It happened so quickly,” said Mrs. Woytack, his wife of 46 years.
But the caretaker was also unable to remove the tombstone. The several hundred pound tombstone eventually budged after Kerecman showed up to help, but by then it was too late.
“There is no way that any one person could lift that up,” said Kerecman, who described the accident as “freaky” and said he had never seen anything like it in his 30 years as a law enforcement officer. “It was a pretty heavy stone.”
Staff at the cemetery said it is not too unusual for tombstones to topple over, especially as the ground thaws and grows softer in the spring.
The couple was well known to the cemetery’s caretaker, who said they came every year to lay flowers on their family plot.
Lucy said her husband was a loving man who served as a Eucharistic minister at Mary, Mother of God parish in Scranton — the same church that oversees the cemetery where he died.
“It is unimaginable to think that a visit of a faithful couple to the grave of loved ones in anticipation of the celebration of Easter could have ended in such a tragic manner,” said Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, who was notified of Woytack’s death shortly after the tragic accident. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the deceased and his family.”
But family members took some solace in the timing of the tragedy. Before the tombstone killed the man laying Easter decorations, a nearby priest was able to give him last rites.
[Image via Getty Images/Christopher Furlong]