- Published1 hour ago
At least 189 decaying bodies were found at a Colorado funeral home, up from the initial 115 body count reported when the bodies were first discovered a few weeks ago, officials said.
Authorities were first alerted after being called about a foul odour coming from The Return to Nature Funeral Home, which specialises in “green burials”.
One official described the scene as “horrific” and “hazardous”.
The FBI is helping in the identification of the remains.
Located in Penrose, Colorado – about 30 miles (48km) south of Colorado Springs – The Return to Nature Funeral Home specialises in burials where no chemicals, including embalming fluid, are used and where remains are buried in a biodegradable casket.
After searching the 2,500 sq ft (232 sq m) funeral home in Penrose, Colorado – about 30 miles (48km) south of Colorado Springs – authorities discovered “improperly stored” bodies, which created a “horrific” and “hazardous scene”.
The poor conditions caused one paramedic that arrived at the scene to develop a rash and had to be medically evaluated, according to Fremont County Sheriff Allen Cooper.
Green funerals are allowed in the state but remains must be buried within 24 hours or properly refrigerated.
The newly discovered bodies were removed from the funeral home by 13 October and transported to the El Paso County Coroner’s Office.
Officials say the number of bodies found “could change as the identification and investigative processes continue”.
“While the investigation for this incident continues, we also remain focused on the impacted families,” said Mr Cooper. “We want to do all we can to provide the families the support they need as we shift to the next phase in this process.”
Family notifications will be conducted by a team led by the Fremont County Coroner’s Office, victim advocates and others and “this is expected to begin in the next several days”, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation said in a statement.
Owners of the Return to Nature Funeral Home had faced business troubles and in recent months missed tax payments and got evicted from one of their properties, according to the Associated Press.
Various teams and agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), are working on the investigation.
Fremont County Coroner Randy Keller previously warned it will be a “very lengthy process” because of the need to conduct forensic identification, like obtaining fingerprints and DNA.
The FBI said their teams that have been deployed to the area have “training and specialised equipment that serve to process scenes of national magnitude”.
Families have been asked to complete this form from the FBI to assist in their investigation.