On the road to eternal peace, a body left inside a funeral home minivan wound up at hell on earth: the city tow pound.
The unscheduled stop came after a police tow truck hooked the illegally parked vehicle outside Redden's Funeral Home on W. 14th St.
The dearly departed was soon heading for a lot off the West Side Highway, with the truck driver handling the last rights - and a few lefts - on the ride through Chelsea.
Funeral director Paul DeNigris said he nearly died after walking outside the business Monday afternoon to find his client no longer resting in peace.
"I was just a wreck," DeNigris told the Daily News. "I was frantic. When something like that happens, you go into panic mode."
The corpse was finally rescued after 90 undignified minutes in Manhattan's most miserable locale, trapped amid scofflaws and irate out-of-towners.
DeNigris had parked his silver 2002 Dodge in a "No Parking Anytime" zone outside the funeral home. The body, in a white cardboard box, was headed for Newark Airport and a flight to Miami for cremation.
DeNigris said he stepped inside to pick up some paperwork, took a phone call, and returned to find ... nothing.
"The car was just gone," he said yesterday.
The NYPD said the van was ticketed at 9:22 a.m. - and then towed nearly three hours later, at 12:07 p.m.
"There was nothing to indicate it was more than just an illegally parked car," said NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne.
The terrified DeNigris was at the pound within minutes, explaining his improbable plight and showing his funeral home paperwork.
"I tried not to be too loud," he recounted. "I didn't want to scream, 'I'm the guy from the funeral home with the car with the person in the back.'
"We try to be discreet."
The car and its human cargo were returned at 1:40 p.m., with Redden driving to Newark in time to put the body on the Florida flight.
He declined to provide any information about the victim.
DeNigris said the minivan had a windshield placard reading "Funeral Director on Official Business," but acknowledged it had fallen flat and was hard to detect.
The van's tinted windows helped obscure the box packed in its rear, he said.
Redden's will start putting signs identifying its vehicles in the rear and side windows to prevent a repeat.
The tow pound, in a show of respect despite the bizarre circumstances, waived the $185 fee when returning the minivan.
DeNigris said he planned to fight the $115 parking ticket, claiming a funeral business vehicle transporting a body is immune to parking regulations.
If he loses, DeNigris said, that's the cost of doing business in the city.
"It's frustrating," he said. "It's aggravating. But this is New York City. Things like this are not uncommon."
Read more: That's my corpse! Funeral director scrambles to retrieve body after tow truck hooks his minivan