It’s been almost a year since Aaliyah’s death in a plane crash in the Bahamas, but the legal and financial disputes over her untimely end are only heating up. The latest battle is over the cost of preparing for burial the bodies of the singer and her entourage. According to published reports, the Nassau mortuary that prepared and shipped the bodies back to the U.S. claims that Virgin Records backed out on a promise to pay the $68,000 cost of the funeral preparations.
Loretta Turner, director of Butler’s Funeral Home, said Virgin Records executives Ken and Nancy Berry agreed to pay the expenses after the Aug. 25 crash. ”Because Aaliyah was, in their words, ‘high profile,’ they asked us to expedite things. So we were working over the weekend to get the bodies out as quickly as possible,” Turner told E! ”[The deal] was all verbal, but the truth of the matter is, they knew they were obliged. They contacted all of the families themselves, sent us all of the necessary information and told us not to deal directly with the family members, that they would be responsible.”
However, the Berrys left Virgin shortly thereafter in the company’s cost-cutting overhaul that came in the wake of Mariah Carey’s costly flop ”Glitter.” ”Now this reputable company has kept us waiting for nearly a year and have basically said, since the Berrys are no longer there, they have no responsibility to us,” Turner said. ”I don’t know if they think we are some sort of Third World banana republic and we’re not up to scratch, but it just gives a pretty bad view of things in our view.”
Aaliyah’s parents, Michael and Diane Haughton, and the families of the other crash victims say that the Berrys also promised them that Virgin would pay their funeral expenses. ”Those payments were never made to the family to reimburse those costs, and the costs were substantial,” Robert Spragg, the Haughtons’ lawyer, told E! He is representing them in their wrongful-death suit against Virgin and the air service, claiming negligence in the overloading of the small plane and the hiring of an apparently unqualified pilot with a drug rap sheet. Funeral director Turner says she has contacted Spragg about her claim, though she has yet to file a lawsuit.
Virgin has not commented on Turner’s or the families’ funeral expense claims.