New York: New York authorities have suspended the license of a Brooklyn funeral home where dozens of bodies were found piled up in trucks without refrigeration.
Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said in a statement on Friday that after an investigation, the health department had issued an immediate suspension order against the Andrew T Cleckley Funeral Home in Brooklyn, calling its actions “appalling, disrespectful to the families of the deceased and completely unacceptable”, reports Efe news.
Zucker said funeral homes were responsible for managing their capacity appropriately and providing “respectful and competent” services.
The Commissioner said the state understood the burden being faced by such establishments and had issued orders allowing out-of-state funeral directors to help during the coronavirus epidemic.
“But a crisis is no excuse for the kind of behavior we witnessed at Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Home,” he said, adding that the business would be held accountable for its actions.
On Wednesday, the New York police received calls from Brooklyn residents complaining about the stench that allegedly originated from dozens of corpses stored inside trucks of the U-Haul company – normally hired on a per-hour basis to move houses – parked outside the funeral home.
Callers had claimed that blood could be seen trickling out of one of the trucks, after which officers were dispatched to the home, where employees were taking out the dead bodies from the trucks to try and place them in a refrigerated truck or a mobile morgue, according to media reports.
A police official told reporters that two unrefrigerated trucks outside Andrew T Cleckley’s funeral parlour contained around 50 bodies each.
According to police, the corpses were kept in the rented trucks for more than a week and some of them had started to decompose, which led to the foul odour.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio had on Thursday termed the discovery “abominable” and “totally unacceptable”, but insisted that this was an isolated case and the city was dealing with a large number of COVID-19 related deaths “adequately”.
According to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, the number of coronavirus deaths in the New York state, the epicentre of the pandemic in the US, has crossed 23,000, with around 18,000 deaths reported from New York City alone.
The number of cases in the state has gone past 300,000.
The US currently accounts for the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the world at 1,103,781 and 65,068, respectively.