Cleaning up gory scenes
Ron Gospodarski and his team handle real-life CSI-like crime scenes. (Michael Kirby)
A mail-room worker jumped from the top of a staircase, dying instantly in the lobby. Another man was discovered six weeks after his natural death – on the toilet. A third man was decapitated by a flying blade in a downtown factory.
After these tragedies, someone has to clean up the harrowing aftermath.
Companies that specialize in this kind of clean-up save inexperienced workers — not to mention friends and families of the deceased— from having to do this difficult work themselves, said Dale Cillian, president of the American Bio-Recovery Association, or ABRA.
“If someone has to clean up after a homicide or suicide, they can be traumatized a second time, and it may be worse than the initial shock,” he said. Unsafe toxins also require removal by an experienced professional.
Ron Gospodarski has been cleaning up these scenes in New York for more than a decade. During his 23 years as a paramedic, he saw every imaginable kind of gruesome accident and death. When he realized New York lacked a company that specialized in such clean-ups, he founded Bio-Recovery Corp. in 1998, after earning certifications from ABRA and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Bio-Recovery, based in Long Island City, employs about 12 people on an on-call basis (Gospodarski runs day-to-day operations with another full-time employee). All of his workers have experience in law enforcement or emergency services. “They’ve seen it all, and that’s half the battle,” Gospodarski said.
Gospodarski and his team get calls for “decomps – naturally occurring deaths, suicides and crime scenes, though those are the least of jobs,” he said.
“Sometimes we go out there, mop up a puddle of blood and go. Other jobs involve taking out walls and floors.”
Calls come in at any time and from as far away as Albany. When he is called to a scene, Gospodarski surveys it and decides how to approach the job. He doesn’t wear his respirator when evaluating — the smell helps him access the severity of the job.
After accessing the situation, the team pulls on disposable suits that protect them from possible pathogens. They start with the “gross decomposition,” said Gospodarski. In some cases, blood will have seeped into the floors or other surfaces.
The team makes every effort to remove all traces of the incident. They use some industrial-strength products, but mostly rely on household cleaners, such as Mr. Clean and Formula 49.
A typical job costs the client between $2,500-$3,000. A member of the Bio-Recovery team earns $25 per hour to start.
Business is not always steady, Gospodarski said, but there are patterns. The holiday season is particularly busy. Suicides increase, but a lot of elderly people also die during this season. “They get depressed and lonely and they just sort of die,” Gospodarski said.
Gospodarski is quick to point out that New York is the safest large city in the world, with the homicide rate down drastically in recent years. Most of the jobs he is called in on are accidents and natural deaths
Often Bio-Recovery will go days and weeks without stopping, followed by no work at all. “When you watch the news and it’s busy, we’re going to be busy. If it’s quiet, we are quiet.”