BROOKLYN, N.Y. - A Brooklyn funeral home is now under investigation after dozens of bodies were found improperly stored in trucks outside. This, as families of the deceased showed up on Thursday looking for answers and the bodies of their loved ones.
"This is too much on humanity. I’m really hurt. I’m really hurt. I don’t even know what I’m looking for," said a heartbroken and confused Tamisha Covington.
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She wondered if her mother’s body is one of the more than 50 left in unrefrigerated rental trucks outside the Andrew Cleckley Funeral Home on Utica Avenue in Brooklyn.
“We’re grieving for our mothers, our family members, our friends. This is too disrespectful to the dead this is disrespectful to us. And they charged me $15,000 to bury my mother. A closed casket, no funeral, an hour session outside my building and from there one person to the grave site," Covington said.
Many families that turned to this funeral home in their time of grief are outraged after learning so many bodies were not properly stored. On Wednesday, police were called because of an awful smell. Dozens of bodies were discovered. Ronald Elmine wondered where his brother’s body is.
“I’m feel really really sad. I really don’t know what to do in this case. He’s been there a week and a half now in this place," Elmine said.
Talking about his brother’s body, he added, “I hope everything is okay with him.” The big question is why, why were bodies left like this?"
David Penepent is a professor of funeral services at SUNY Canton. He says he and his students are helping the funeral home deal with the crisis.
"This is a problem that is happening throughout the state and throughout the city of New York. Many many funeral homes are overrun with human remains. And the reason why is because of the lack of preparation by the division of cemeteries anticipating a pandemic," Penepent said.
The Brooklyn district attorney is investigating to see if a crime was committed. The state's health department which regulates funeral homes is also looking into the horrific situation.
“We are investigating that funeral home. There were no complaints about that funeral home to the department of health in the past, and we have issued guidance to funeral homes that we will not tolerate any kind of that behavior," said State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker. "There are always fines and suspensions and we will enforce this as much as possible.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio called the situation unconscionable and that the funeral home should have reached out to someone for help even if that meant going to a police precinct.
Professor Penepent defended the funeral home owner and staff, adding, "The funeral director is very apologetic to what has happened. Unfortunately the situation got out of control, out of hand way too quickly."
He vowed each body would be properly buried or cremated. Families members hope so. The funeral home staff did not immediately return calls for comment.