A Brooklyn funeral home stacked at least 15 dead bodies in U-Haul trucks and other vehicles parked on the street, police sources said Wednesday — a grisly scene that has horrified neighbors.
The New York Police Department, along with several city and state agencies, descended on the morbid scene outside the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Home on Utica Avenue and Avenue M in the Flatlands neighborhood.
Outside, they found two U-Haul box trucks, a U-Haul van, an unmarked 30-foot box truck, and an unmoored tractor trailer.
The two unmarked vehicles were refrigerated, but police sources and witnesses said they saw bodies stacked in the U-Haul trucks as well.
“I saw 15 bodies in the U-Haul box truck stacked up on one another, and more in the other,” one officer at the scene told the New York Daily News. “They stored them right out on the street.”
The funeral home did not return messages seeking comment Wednesday.
Funeral homes have been packed to capacity in recent weeks as they deal with deaths from the coronavirus.
“While this situation is under investigation, we should not have what we have right now, with trucks lining the streets filled with bodies,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said Wednesday. “It was people who walked by who saw some leakage and detected an odor coming from a truck.”
Funeral home workers in Tyvek suits and protective masks carried items in and out of the funeral home throughout the evening Wednesday.
Abdul Kamara, 40, said he has seen bodies loaded into the trucks for weeks.
“I’ve seen bodies stacked up on top of one another inside the trucks with both doors open,” he said. “They’ve been storing bodies in the trucks. It’s been going on since the beginning of COVID. These people have passed. This is not the way they should be treated on the way out.”
Jay Fredo, 57, described a similar scene.
“For weeks already, there have been trucks constantly outside unloading bodies. You could smell the death,” he said. “Some of them have been dropped. I know it’s a pandemic, but this is crazy. It’s sick.”
The state health department, which licenses funeral homes, said in a statement it was “notified of storage issues of decedents and alternate arrangements are being made by the funeral home.”
A health department spokeswoman did not respond to additional questions about how many bodies were found, or if it would take any action against the funeral home.
Families who can’t find a funeral home to handle the body of a loved one can ask the city medical examiner’s office to store the body until arrangements are made.
Last week, officials said the city would temporarily freeze the bodies of some coronavirus victims instead of burying them on Hart Island to reduce strain on hospitals and funeral homes. Some bodies will be transferred from morgues and refrigerated trailers to freezer trucks to ensure remains don’t begin to decompose before they can be collected by funeral directors or family.
Adams said he’s looking to form a bereavement committee, starting Monday, with representatives of the medical examiner’s office and the city’s funeral homes.
“This community is going to be traumatized by this long after COVID-19,” the borough president said. “It’s gonna take coordination between funeral directors, cemeteries and the city to address this situation.”
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