The funeral company whose hearse flew open sending a stretcher flying across a busy Auckland intersection yesterday is reassuring the public there was no body inside.

Drivers at the intersection of Sandringham and Balmoral Roads yesterday were shocked to see the vehicle turning the corner with its boot open and a gurney rolling behind with what appeared to be a corpse under a blanket.

But the hearse's owner, Davis Funerals in Dominion Rd, says the gurney was empty.

Robert Russell, branch manager at Davis Funerals in Auckland's Dominion Rd, said the driver had gone to pick up a body from a house, but police at the house turned him away when he could not provide identification.


"The police sent him away to come back and get his ID. Thus we can confirm that there was no deceased person on the stretcher. That can be substantiated by the local police," Russell said.

While the stretcher appeared to be carrying a body, in fact the unusual shape was created by a head pillow under the blanket, Russell said.

He said the error happened because his driver was driving a hearse, which has no equipment to restrain a stretcher. Normally a specialised vehicle has equipment that would lock the stretcher in place and prevent such incidents.

Russell apologised to those who saw the incident and said the "very, very upset" driver was receiving counselling.

"We're very devastated at the fact of this happening, because it is frightening for people."

The hearse will be assessed to ensure the door works properly and the funeral home is reviewing its procedures "to make sure this can never ever happen again", he said.