'Unconscionable' body overflow at funeral home prompts probe

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Workers move bodies to a refrigerated truck from the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Home in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Wednesday, April 29, 2020. Police responded to a report of human bodies in vehicles, which they determined were connected to the nearby funeral home. The New York Police Department notified the state Department of Health, which oversees funeral homes. The coronavirus pandemic has overrun most funeral homes and morgues in New York City. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

NEW YORK – It started with reports of a strange stench in Brooklyn. Police who investigated found another example of how the cornavirus has overwhelmed the city: A funeral home had resorted to storing dozens of bodies on ice in rented trucks.

Now state officials say the funeral home could face fines and license suspensions, and the owner says he simply ran out of room because the business had bodies "coming out our ears.”

Authorities found that the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Home had rented four trucks to hold about 50 corpses, Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said Thursday.

A neighboring business owner called 911 to report that fluids were leaking from one of the trucks, police said.

Health officials issued guidance to all funeral homes that they would not tolerate "any of that kind of behavior,” Zucker said at the daily coronavirus briefing by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“Obviously the funeral home shouldn’t have done that," Cuomo said.

Messages were left Thursday with owner Andrew T. Cleckley, who told The New York Times on Wednesday that he needed to use the trucks for overflow storage after he had filled his chapel with more than 100 corpses.

“I ran out of space,” he said. “Bodies are coming out of our ears.”