Brooklyn Boro

About 50 bodies found in trucks outside Brooklyn funeral home

April 30, 2020 Michael R. Sisak and Deepti Hajela Associated Press
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NEW YORK (AP) — 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.

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

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

Police responded to a report of human bodies in vehicles, which they determined were connected to the nearby funeral home. Photo: Craig Ruttle/AP

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

Still, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday called the funeral home’s actions “unconscionable.”

“I have no idea in the world how any funeral home could let this happen,” the Democrat said at a news briefing, arguing that officials at the home should have asked its state regulators or even city police for help if it was becoming overwhelmed.

The funeral home “should have been able to figure it out,” he said.

New York City funeral homes have struggled in the city since late March.

The city has set up temporary morgues. Hospitals have 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.

New York City police officers stood by at the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Home. The coronavirus pandemic has overrun most funeral homes and morgues in New York City. Photo: Craig Ruttle/AP

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. The Democrat 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.”

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