BY TODD MAISEL AND JESSICA PARKS
Dozens of bodies — many of which were the remains of coronavirus victims – were seen being loaded from several U-Haul trucks to a refrigerator truck outside of a Brooklyn funeral home on Wednesday afternoon.
Officers from the 63rd Precinct were called 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 workers from the funeral home loading bodies from the two U-Hauls into a large refrigerator truck.
Law enforcement agents said 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.
A cameraman from News 12 Brooklyn who arrived first on the scene said a man who identified himself as the funeral director began yelling epitaphs and threatening him, prompting him to call the cops too.
Police cordoned off the trucks and while they were there, 15 bodies were carted into the refrigerator truck from the U-Hauls, a police source said, with apparently many more stacked to the top of the insides of the trucks. Police commanders arriving on the scene with Department of Health officials then decided to shut down the operation and both directions of Utica Avenue and start an investigation of their own.
One hazmat-suited worker from the funeral home said, “I just want to do my job and move these bodies, I just want to get this done.” He then stormed away.
One 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 they recently up-sized the truck to keep up with the influx of bodies.
“Over the last two weeks, to see 30 to 50 bodies just being moved in and out, in and out, it’s a lot,” 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, and 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.
While police say they didn’t think there was any criminality, an investigation was launched as to why so many bodies were being stored in non refrigerated trucks.
Louie dePasquale, a local mechanic watched with “disgust” the workers moving bodies before cops put a stop to it. he said cops were called because “blood was leaking onto the ground.”
“It’s disgusting, inhumane the way they are treating bodies – like pieces of meat, just throwing them out,” dePasquale said. “They just have everything out, bodies were exposed, people’s family were in there – just no respect, no remorse.”
A National Grid worker who asked not to be named said the funeral home was “stacking bodies on palates” and people exiting the nearby Dollar General Store were astounded.
“People were saying ‘what the hell’ because the bodies were just out on palates,” Drummond said. “Those trucks have been here for two months and I was supposed to get my truck fixed across the street, but he said, ‘you better come take a look.'”
Christine Drummond, a resident of Avenue M said she has seen the bodies also sitting ont he concrete outside of the trucks.
“The whole thing is sick – 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.”
She said the trucks have been in the same place for more than a week, but “I knew they were storing something in them.”
A health care worker who didn’t want to be identified watched from the door of Advanced Medical Care of New York, across the street from the funeral home, in disbelief.
“They have to be COVID-19 victims – we’ve been seeing it too,” she said. “They have been coming for days picking up bodies. Those trucks were here since last week – I just try to stay away from it.”
Mohammad Kahn, a worker at the local building material store down the block called their handling of the bodies “disrespectful.”
“They couldn’t be properly sanitizing and then returning those trucks to U-Haul,” Kahn said. “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. It sounds crazy, but this is something people were seeing every day.”