Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Help Me Howard: Stinking Casket
Going to visit a cemetery is not the highlight of your day, but imagine going to pay your respects to a friend or family member and having to hold your nose. It's happening in one South Florida cemetery, and the visitors wonder, is this legal? For the answer, let's bring in Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- When Dana and her boyfriend go to visit her grandmother's grave, the look on her face is painful.
Dana Kramer: "It's unthinkable."
Her eyes water, but it's not just from sadness.
Dana Kramer: "It's horrible. This is my grandmother's resting place, it should be a place of peace, and instead it's really disgusting."
Disgusting because of the smell.
Dana Kramer: "This is where my grandmother is, Sara Cohen, and I'm actually holding my breath because I'm gagging from the smell."
Sara passed away in 1997 and was placed in this Miami-Dade Mausoleum. Dana and her family have visited many times. It's a Jewish tradition to leave a rock on the ground after each visit.
Dana Kramer: "I come to see her because she's my grandmother. She's lived with me since I was a child, and she's a very beloved person to me."
But, beginning in December, the visits became torturous.
Dana Kramer: "I would say the stench is horrendous. It smells like there's dead animals everywhere."
I wish Dana was exaggerating, but the smell is overwhelming.
Dana Kramer: "They told me from the office that the woman above her was not embalmed correctly."
The woman in the crypt above Dana's grandmother passed away a few months ago, but the smell is not restricted to that area, it fills the entire mausoleum.
Dana Kramer: "I came Sunday to see her with my daughter, and we couldn't even get close. As I was walking away from her stone, I was gagging and my daughter had to stay over here because she couldn't stand the smell."
Dana has complained to the cemetery's manager.
Dana Kramer: "And he said that he would get in contact with the family and get back with me."
But she says three months have passed and nothing has been done, and, she says, if her grandmother was alive she would be...
Dana Kramer: "Horrified. First of all, she was one of the cleanest women that I've ever known."
Unable to beat the smell, unable to get the odor cleared out, Dana then turned to Help Me Howard to legally see what can be done.
Howard Finkelstein: "Dana has a right to visit her loved ones without being hit with horrible smells, but, to fix the problem, the family of the deceased in the bad crypt has to agree. If they don't or can't be reached, the cemetery has to get a court order, so they can fix the problem."
When we spoke to the general manager of the cemetery, he told me it was not the crypt above Dana's grandmother. They had checked several, and it was another crypt that had been there for years, that the casket in that crypt went bad.
He told me he had tried to contact the family of the deceased person, their deadline to respond was last Friday, and they did not respond. He is now asking a judge for a court order to replace the bad casket with a new one to eliminate the odor.
Dana Kramer: "She's my grandmother I have to come out here."
Finally, Dana will get what she wanted and, with the air clear again, she'll be able to focus on the good times she had with her grandmother.
Dana Kramer: "Just, I hope the situation gets taken care of because this is where my grandma is, and my family comes to visit her, and we shouldn't have to bear this coming to see her."
Patrick Fraser: "Now, while cemeteries are regulated by the state, in this case, legally, no one did anything wrong, either it's a defective casket or something else, they won't know till they get to work. By the way, the cemetery has to pay for the removal, but, if it's a defective casket, then they may be able to go after the casket company for reimbursement."
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