Drive-by Shooting Victim Mistakenly Cremated in New Orleans
Last week, a 20-year-old black man named Ralph Bias was shot and killed in New Orleans.
The city’s coroner held the body to prepare a report on his death. But because a lack of space, the morgue stacked Mr. Bias’ body bag on top of a body bag holding a 60-year-old white male. When a funeral home arrived to claim the body of the 60-year-old man, neither the coroner’s office nor the funeral home bothered to check the identification card on the outside of the body bags. And no one bothered to look in the body bag to determine if they had the right body.
As a consequence, Mr. Bias’ body was cremated instead of his sixty-year-old bunkmate.
In addition, Mr. Bias’ family was not contacted to identify the body before the funeral home removed it to be cremated.
Mr. Bias’ family has retained an attorney, Allain Hardin. Mr. Hardin gives this quote:
“Mr. Bias was a 20-year-old black male. The person who was supposed to be cremated was a 60-year-old white male,” Hardin said. “Louisiana law requires a positive identification by the family or someone in a position to make it before a body is taken to the crematory. One look and they would have been able to tell a mistake was made.” (source)
New Orlean’s morgue is a deplorable mess. New Orleans has still not rebuilt it coroner’s office, which Katrina destroyed. So, the coroner works out of an old funeral home with three refrigerated trailers in the parking lot. These trailers hold eighty bodies on an average day. Bodies are disorganized and stacked on top of each other regularly. This is hardly the care and respect that the dead deserve.
Let’s hope that this tragedy and pending lawsuit(s) will spur New Orleans to fix its broken morgue.