Dozens of bodies — many of which were the remains of coronavirus victims – were seen being loaded from several U-Haul trucks to a mobile refrigerator outside of a Flatlands funeral home on Wednesday afternoon.
Officers from the 63rd Precinct were directed to the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Home at 2057A Utica Ave. after a 911 caller reported “blood coming from one of the trucks.” Police from the 63rd Precinct found funeral home workers loading bodies from the U-Hauls into a large refrigerator truck.
Law enforcement agents claimed the bodies have been in the rental trucks for more than a week and have been rotting and causing a strong odor. Investigators also believe most of the dead bodies are the result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While an NYPD spokesperson said no crimes had been committed at the funeral home, the sight of employees adorning hazmat suits while moving corpses alarmed many passersby — and an investigation has been launched into the funeral home’s storage methods.
Police cordoned off the trucks and while they were there, 15 bodies were carted into the mobile refrigerator from the U-Hauls, a police source said, and many more appeared to be stacked inside the trucks. When Department of Health officials arrived, authorities decided to shut down the operation, as well as Utica Avenue, and begin an investigation of their own.
“I just want to do my job and move these bodies,” said one hazmat-suited worker. “I just want to get this done.”
A neighbor of the Utica Avenue funeral home said this isn’t the first time the undertaker has had to resort to trucks to store the deceased during the ongoing pandemic. But the company has upsized to meet demand, she said.
“Over the last two weeks, to see 30 to 50 bodies just being moved in and out, in and out, it’s a lot,” the neighbor, who identified herself as Maureen, said. “At one time, they had one of the small freezer trucks and, at the beginning of last week, they got one of the bigger ones.”
The state Health Department has been advised of the funeral home’s storage methods, according to a representative, who said they have been asked to modify their practices.
“The Department has been notified of storage issues of decedents and alternate arrangements are being made by the funeral home,” said spokeswoman Erin Silk.
Louie dePasquale, a local mechanic, watched with disgust before cops put a stop to the scene.
“It’s disgusting, inhumane the way they are treating bodies – like pieces of meat, just throwing them out,” he said. “They just have everything out. Bodies were exposed, people’s family were in there – just no respect, no remorse.”
Christine Drummond, a resident of Avenue M, said she has also seen bodies laid out on the concrete outside of the home.
“The whole thing is sick,” she said. “I was crying the other day because I went to Dollar General and I saw them putting tons of bodies into the trucks — it was so sad I just started to cry.”
Mohammad Kahn, an employee at a material store down the block, called Cleckley Funeral Home’s handling of bodies “disrespectful.”
“One of my co- workers was walking home after clocking out, and she came running back into the yard in shock because she saw bodies laying on the sidewalk,” he said. “It sounds crazy, but this is something we’re seeing every day.”
As of April 29, there have been more than 12,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in New York City, and close to 18,000 deaths. The Utica Avenue undertaker is one of many institutions struggling to find proper space for the deceased.
Earlier this month, employees of an East New York nursing home claimed that dead bodies were piling up inside the center and, in March, employees at Brooklyn Hospital Center in Fort Greene were caught on video using a forklift to put dead bodies into a makeshift morgue.
The funeral home could not be reached for comment.
This story first appeared on AMNY.com