A Northern Virginia funeral home that acts as a regional embalming facility for a national corporation has been penalized by the state for violations that include improperly storing bodies in the facility’s garage and hallways. ….Employees at the funeral home raised concerns last year that hundreds of bodies were being mishandled at the facility. A Washington Post article in April 2009 detailed allegations that bodies had been left on hazardous-materials boxes and makeshift gurneys; deceased veterans were placed on garage racks for months while awaiting burial at Arlington National Cemetery; and some bodies were left exposed and leaking fluids. Photographs taken in the funeral home documented the alleged abuses, and family members of the deceased said they had no idea that their loved ones’ bodies had been taken to the facility and were not being properly stored in refrigerated areas. State board officials said Wednesday that the $50,000 fine is one of the highest financial penalties ever handed to a funeral establishment in Virginia and that the six annual inspections are the most the board has ever ordered. By accepting a consent order, National Funeral Home and its parent company, Houston-based Service Corporation International, avoid the possibility of having their licenses revoked at a formal board hearing. ….
Worker Who Spoke to Media About Funeral Home Is Fired
Source: Josh White, Washington Post, July 7, 2009
A National Funeral Home employee who publicly supported allegations that the company was mishandling bodies at its Falls Church facility was fired last week for speaking to the media, he and his attorney said. Robert Ranghelli, 20, of Manassas Park was put on administrative leave three months ago after he spoke to The Washington Post and other media outlets about what he considered disgraceful conditions at the funeral home. After The Post revealed the conditions in an article April 5, Ranghelli corroborated another former employee’s claims, saying he regularly saw decomposing bodies left in the garage and back rooms of National, a regional embalming and storage facility for Service Corporation International. Ranghelli was fired Wednesday morning, when SCI officials told him to report to work. They immediately informed him that he had violated company policies by speaking to the media and appearing with a company van in a Post photograph. It was the same day SCI officials publicly denied that the conditions existed and argued in letters to a Virginia regulatory board that an internal investigation turned up no evidence to support the allegations. …..
Funeral Home Employees Say Bodies Were Mishandled
Source: Josh White, Washington Post, April 5, 2009
Ronald Federici’s father, a retired Army colonel, had just died, and Federici wanted to escort his body to Demaine Funeral Home in Alexandria. But the driver who came to pick up the remains at the hospital said he wasn’t going to Demaine, he was going to some other place. …. Napper, a retired Maryland state trooper, had been hired in May by National Funeral Home, which also acts as a regional clearinghouse that embalms and stores bodies for four other Washington area funeral homes — Arlington Funeral Home, Danzansky-Goldberg Memorial Chapel in Rockville, and Demaine Funeral Home in Alexandria and Springfield. From May to February, when he quit, Napper said that the walk-in coolers could not hold all the bodies and that a manager told employees to store them in unrefrigerated areas. During his time there, Napper said, as many as 200 corpses were left on makeshift gurneys in the garage, in hallways and in a back room, unrefrigerated and leaking fluids onto the floor. Some were stored on cardboard boxes or were balanced on biohazard containers. At least half a dozen veterans destined for the hallowed ground at Arlington National Cemetery were left in their coffins on a garage rack, Napper said. He began to take photographs in December and presented them to the Virginia Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers. Federici and Napper’s observations — accounts supported by three others who have worked there — have led to a probe by the state board, although board officials said they were prohibited by law from disclosing such an inquiry. Several people said they were interviewed by a board investigator in recent weeks. What was supposed to be a dignified end to thousands of lives had instead deteriorated into a haphazard operation, Napper said, more about money than honoring the dead. Part of the largest funeral services conglomerate in the world — Houston-based Service Corporation International — the company did not want to spend money to address the issues, Napper said supervisors told him. ….SCI, which owns more than 1,700 funeral homes in the United States, has been accused of problems before, such as in the Menorah Gardens case in Florida. Customers filed a class-action lawsuit against SCI alleging that funeral homes in the chain desecrated vaults, oversold cemetery plots, and removed bodies from grave sites and dumped them in the woods in 2001. SCI settled the case out of court for $100 million in 2003. ….