Coroner's Office handling floating caskets in Starks, Vinton

Published: Mar. 14, 2016 at 8:19 PM CDT|Updated: May. 14, 2016 at 3:45 AM CDT
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Fountain Cemetery Road (Source: KPLC)
Fountain Cemetery Road (Source: KPLC)
Fountain Cemetery (Source: KPLC)
Fountain Cemetery (Source: KPLC)

STARKS, LA (KPLC) - As horrifying as it is to face the loss of property in major flooding, many residents in the Starks area are fighting to keep loved ones' caskets buried in cemeteries from floating up and away.

The cemeteries having problems are Fountain, north of Starks; Doyle in Starks; VFW, south of Starks; and Niblett's Bluff Cemetery in Vinton at the park.
Investigators with the Calcasieu Coroner's Office are doing what they can to assess the situation. They're inspecting these and various cemeteries in the area to see which graves have been compromised. They will do what they can to secure any caskets and, as needed, they will be brought to the Coroner's Office until flooding subsides.

It's a problem that happens at low-lying cemeteries during flooding and it's heartbreaking for loved ones. Many had tried unsuccessfully to go check on graves.

Resident Alvin Meshell tried to check on his parents' graves

"They're all concerned. It's all their loved ones have been there for years. As far as I know the veterans have got some coming up, I don't know about Fountain. I heard Fountain cemetery might have some floating up. I don't know," he said.

Zeb Johnson, coroner's investigator, said it's too dangerous for residents to attempt to retrieve concrete vaults and caskets.

"Do not go to the cemeteries. These vaults weigh 1,600 to 1,800 pounds; caskets are full of water and if they are full of water, we know how to handle that and take care of it. We have lots of experience,  unfortunately with Katrina, Rita and Ike, in recovering caskets and it's just not good for family members to be out in the cemetery," he said.

By boat, the Calcasieu Sheriff's Office and Charlie Hunter, coroner's investigator, made stops at the VFW Cemetery and Fountain Cemetery.
In all, Hunter said 15-20 vaults appear to be disturbed at Fountain.

"Both cemeteries, as of right now, are completely submerged under water. There's multiple disruptions with both vaults that are becoming unearthed as well as visible caskets," he said.

Hunter said if someone sees a vault or coffin that can be secured to try to tie it off. but only if it can be done safely.

Meanwhile, those caskets or vaults that appear in danger are being tagged, so they can be retrieved when the water recedes.

And coroner's investigators predict it's going to get worse before it gets better. Some of the cemeteries will likely be completely under water by Tuesday.

Coroner's officials said it's going to be a problem that will take at least a few days to resolve.

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