Dozens of bodies found in unrefrigerated trucks outside Brooklyn funeral home: report

1010 WINS Newsroom
April 30, 2020 - 11:15 am
U-Haul trucks outside of the funeral home

AP Photo/Craig Ruttle

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NEW YORK (1010 WINS) — Police were called to a Brooklyn neighborhood Wednesday after a funeral home overwhelmed by the coronavirus resorted to storing dozens of bodies on ice in rented trucks, and a passerby complained about the smell, officials said.

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Neighbors were reportedly worried bodies were being stored in multiple U-Haul trucks seen outside the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Services building on Utica Avenue in the Flatlands section of Brooklyn.

Investigators who responded to a 911 call found that the home had rented four trucks to hold about 50 corpses, a law enforcement official told the Associated Press. According to ABC-TV, two unrefrigerated trailers outside the funeral home on Utica Avenue each contained 50 bodies. 

No criminal charges were brought official, the official told the AP; the funeral home was cited for failing to control the odors.

The home was able to obtain a larger, refrigerated truck later in the day, the official said.

The New York State Department of Health was called to ensure remains were being handled appropriately. In a statement, the department said it had been "notified of storage issues of decedents and alternate arrangements are being made by the funeral home."

"Funeral directors are required to store decedents awaiting burial or other final disposition in appropriate conditions and to follow their routine infection prevention and control precautions," the state Health Department added.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams went to the scene on Wednesday evening. He told the Daily News: “While this situation is under investigation, we should not have what we have right now, with trucks lining the streets filled with bodies.”  He said “it was people who walked by who saw some leakage and detected an odor coming from a truck.”

The funeral home has apparently been overwhelmed amid the coronavirus pandemic but has reportedly been using the trucks to store extra furniture.

New York City funeral homes have struggled in the city since late March. The city set up temporary morgues. Hospitals used refrigerated tractor trailers to cart away multiple bodies at a time, sometimes loading them in public view on the sidewalk. Crematoriums have been backed up. Funeral directors across the city have pleaded for help as they have run out of space.

Adams said he wanted a bereavement committee to assist overwhelmed funeral directors. The committee would bring together funeral directors, morgues, medical examiners and clergy to assure the deceased are treated in a dignified manner.

At his daily briefing Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio called the situation "absolutely unacceptable," and he said he supported Adams' proposal for a bereavement committee.

"They have an obligation to people they serve to treat them with dignity," de Blasio said. "I have no idea in the world how any funeral home could let this happen."

The mayor said the city does not have a "direct working relationship" with funeral homes, which are regulated by the state.

"Why on Earth didn't they either alert the state, who regulate them, or go to their NYPD precinct and ask for help, rather than leave the bodies there," de Blasio said. "It's unconscionable to me."

De Blasio said the city will find a way to work with the state to make sure funeral homes are able to manage the surge in deceased.

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