Coronavirus News: Unrefrigerated bodies at funeral home 'completely unacceptable,' mayor says

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Thursday, April 30, 2020
Dozens of bodies found in unrefrigerated trucks at Brooklyn funeral home
NJ Burkett with the story of the facility, who's director said he had bodies, "coming out of their ears."

FLATLANDS, Brooklyn (WABC) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio called a situation at a Brooklyn funeral home where 100 bodies were found in unrefrigerated trucks outside "completely unacceptable" and said steps would be taken to prevent another such incident.

"I have no idea how any funeral home could let this happen," he said. "Why on earth did they not alert the state...go to their NYPD precinct and ask for help. Do something rather than leave the bodies there."

Police and the health department were called to the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Services on Utica Avenue in the Flatlands section after neighbors complained about a foul odor..

A police source told ABC News that two unrefrigerated trailers each contained 50 bodies.

Unrefrigerated trucks are not considered appropriate storage for bodies and are unnecessary as the city had obtained freezer trucks to temporarily hold bodies for overwhelmed funeral homes until arrangements are finalized.

Upon learning of the situation Wednesday, the city sent the proper storage equipment to hold the bodies. City and state officials helped transfer the bodies to those refrigerated trucks provided by the city.

Neighbors indicated to Eyewitness News that they witnessed the bodies being placed into the unrefrigerated trucks on and off for a month -- not in caskets but in body bags.

The owner of the funeral home indicated to city officials that its freezer stopped working.

Funeral homes are regulated by the state, but de Blasio said he supported an idea for a citywide bereavement committee as suggested by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

"I think it's a good idea," he said. "The city does not have a direct relationship with funeral homes...It's not an area we work with a lot, but we all have to work together to solve problems....It is unconscionable. We will all work together. I think what Borough President Adams is saying is smart. Get everyone talking to each other, bring in clergy, who obviously bring so much perspective about what families need at this moment. I think that's a good idea, and we will find a way to create something like that."

The state health department is investigating, and summonses are expected for improper handling of human remains.

The NYPD closed the street for crowd control and to keep people away because of the risk of infection from bodies not stored in appropriate conditions. No criminality is suspected

The investigation is ongoing.


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