Mortuary Director Tells Local Paper 40,000 Could Be Lost in Hurricane

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By: E&P Staff

In a profoundly troubling article in the Shelbyville (Tenn.) Times-Gazette today by Clint Confehr, a co-owner of a local mortuary revealed that he had been asked to join in recovering bodies lost in the Gulf Coast hurricane and had been told “to expect up to 40,000 bodies” in total.

Dan Hicks is co-owner of Shelbyville-based Gowen-Smith Chapel and has been deployed to Gulfport, Miss., to help with recovery. His partner, Dan Buckner, told the paper, “DMort is telling us to expect up to 40,000 bodies,” quoting officials with the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT), a volunteer arm of Homeland Security.

Their funeral home is one of several collection sites for donations to be taken to the Red Cross in Fayetteville on Wednesday for transfer to places in need.

The 40,000 estimate does “not include the number of disinterred remains that have been displaced from … mausoleums,” Buckner grimly told the Times-Gazette Monday.

“Until they search each and every remaining house and remove all the fallen materials … they will not know how many people are there,” Buckner said. “The National Association of Funeral Directors and Embalmers will be making assignments to coordinate with local officials … [for] preparation of bodies,” he said. “They’ll probably establish a mortuary there where bodies can be taken so forensics can identify bodies and families can decide what they want to do.

“My personal opinion is they will be recovering bodies for 30 … to 120 days,” Buckner said.

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