The accident happened as Stephen Woytack, 74, was kneeling by the grave to help his wife, Lucy, tie a cross around the stone at St Joseph’s Cemetery in Throop, Pennsylvania, USA. The top part of the granite headstone which fell on to his head and killed him is estimated to have weighed between 300-400lb.

Cemetery caretaker Ed Kubilus told WNEP-TV that the couple came to visit the grave several times during the course of a year – and always at Easter. “They tie a cross to it every year, the both of them,” said Mr Kubilus. “And after they’re done tying the cross to it they stand there, say prayers, and then they leave.”

He said that Mrs Woytack – who had been married to her husband for 46 years – rushed to him for help after the horrific accident. “She came running up – ‘Help me, the stone fell on Stephen!” Mr Kubilus called police and rushed to the grave, but could not lift the stone.

Mr Kubilus said warm spring weather thawing the frozen ground could often make the earth under headstones less stable. “I’ve come over and saw six stones fall from the winter. Winter, and the ground gets soft and the stones fall over and you have somebody come and pick them up.”

He told the Scranton Times-Tribune: “It’s just a freak thing that happened. It’s heartbreaking.”

Mr Woytack will be buried in a plot just in front of the headstone that killed him.