Authorities say dozens of decomposing bodies were found in unrefrigerated U-Haul trucks outside a funeral home in Brooklyn on Wednesday afternoon.
The gruesome discovery was made at the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Services building on Utica Avenue in the Flatlands after neighbors complained about an unbearable foul stench emanating from the trucks.
"I seen them carrying bags and bags of bodies out all day. It's hard to look at, you know, it's just hard to look at. They are carrying these bodies out like it's nothing," said one man who works in an auto body shop across the street.
"The smell was overwhelming," another man said.
It's believed the bodies had been there for more than a week.
The funeral home director told police he started storing the bodies in the trucks after their freezer stopped working. The approximately 100 bodies have been transferred to a refrigerated truck donated by the city.
Borough President Eric Adams visited the scene and said he wants a bereavement committee to assist overwhelmed funeral directors.
"It's going to include our funeral directors, representatives from our morgues that are in the hospital, everyone that's part of handling bodies, cemeteries, we want the entire process to be coordinated," Adams said.
The Health Department was called to the scene after it was "notified of storage issues of decedents."
"Funeral directors are required to store decedents awaiting burial or other final disposition in appropriate conditions and to follow their routine infection prevention and control precautions," the state Health Department added.
On Thursday morning, the funeral home looked like a crime scene with police standing guard and a gray tarp over the entrance, but investigators do not believe there was any criminality, the undertakers were simply overwhelmed.
"This funeral home is over capacitated with human remains and that is true," said Dr. David Penepent, a funeral director and professor at SUNY Canton brought in by the state to help. "He got overwhelmed with the number of remains that he had and he didn't know what to do and I'm here to assist him in this operation."
The scene was the latest example of funeral homes struggling with thousands of deaths caused by the coronavirus.
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