Police called after New York funeral home puts bodies in unrefrigerated trucks

April 30, 2020

Police were called to a Brooklyn neighborhood in New York City on 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.

Investigators who responded to a 911 call found that the home had rented four trucks to hold about 50 corpses, according to a law enforcement official. No criminal charges were brought and the official, who was not authorised to speak publicly about the investigation, spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The Andrew T Cleckley Funeral Home was cited for failing to control the odours. The home was able to obtain a larger, refrigerated truck later in the day, the official said.

Workers move a body near the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Home in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Wednesday, April 29, 2020.  — AP
Workers move a body near the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Home in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Wednesday, April 29, 2020. — AP

Workers suited up in protective gear could be seen in the afternoon transferring bodies into the refrigerated truck.

A person who answered the phone at the funeral home hung up without speaking. Subsequent calls went to voicemail, which was full.

New York City funeral homes have struggled as at least 18,000 people have died 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.

The NYPD notified the state Department of Health, which oversees funeral homes, about the situation at the Andrew T Cleckley Funeral Home. It did not respond to an email seeking comment.

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 that “it was people who walked by who saw some leakage and detected an odour coming from a truck.”

New York City has been at the epicentre of the global coronavirus pandemic and the city’s funeral homes have been overwhelmed. As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 18,000 people had died of Covid-19 in America’s biggest city, according to a Reuters tally.

Funeral homes say they are facing weeks-long backlogs to bury or cremate the dead.

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