Funeral home resorts to bodies on ice

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A NYPD officer walks up beside rental trucks and a hearse that have their back-ends covered by a tarp outside Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Home, Thursday, April 30, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Police were called to the funeral home Wednesday after it resorted to storing dozens of bodies on ice in rented trucks. The scene was the latest example of funeral homes struggling with thousands of deaths caused by the coronavirus. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

NEW YORK — It started with reports of a strange stench in Brooklyn. Police who investigated found another example of how the coronavirus has overwhelmed the city: A funeral home had resorted to storing dozens of bodies on ice in rented trucks.

Now state officials say the funeral home could face fines and license suspensions, and the owner says he simply ran out of room because the business had bodies “coming out our ears.”

Authorities found that the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Home had rented four trucks to hold about 50 corpses, Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said Thursday.

A neighboring business owner called 911 to report that fluids were leaking from one of the trucks, police said.

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Health officials issued guidance to all funeral homes that they would not tolerate “any of that kind of behavior,” Zucker said at the daily coronavirus briefing by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“Obviously the funeral home shouldn’t have done that,” Cuomo said.

Messages were left Thursday with owner Andrew Cleckley, who told The New York Times on Wednesday that he needed to use the trucks for overflow storage after he had filled his chapel with more than 100 corpses.

“I ran out of space,” he said. “Bodies are coming out of our ears.”

The funeral home was initially cited for failing to control the odors before it obtained a larger, refrigerated truck later in the day. Workers in protective gear could be seen Thursday transferring bodies into the refrigerated truck.

Mayor Bill de Blasio called the actions of funeral home officials “unconscionable.”

New York City funeral homes have struggled since late March as the number of virus-related fatalities has topped 18,000.

A Section on 05/01/2020

Print Headline: Funeral home resorts to bodies on ice

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