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Georgia coroner says he’s forced to use U-Haul vans to transport bodies

MUSCOGEE COUNTY, Ga. — At the time of death when most human remains are transported with a van, a Georgia coroner said he’s been forced to use U-Hauls.

The Muscogee County Coroner’s Office is located right along Beaver Run Road in Columbus.

Coroner Buddy Bryan said that the office has made do for a lot of years with what they had to work with.

According to Bryan, Columbus’s population has increased at a normal rate and the city currently has around 208,000 residents, making it the second-largest city in Georgia.

The Ledger-Enquirer reports that the morgue’s main room is approximately the size of a living room. The largest cooler in the morgue can reportedly hold six bodies. Bryan said the department had to refurbish another cooler that can hold two more bodies to help with the overload.

Bryan, who was elected in 2012, said the county had 626 death investigations that year, now they are up to 1,250 per year.

The coroner’s office has a van and two stretchers that have paid their dues.

“Our van’s got over 300,000 miles on it. It’s antiquated. It’s constantly down at the shop,” Bryan told The Ledger-Enquirer. “It’s dangerous to drive back and forth to Atlanta on a regular basis that we do.”

Atlanta is where autopsies are performed.

Weeks ago, Bryan rented a U-Haul in order to transport six bodies to Atlanta due to an overcrowding at the county morgue and the fact that the official morgue van was in the shop again.

Bryan explained to the Ledger-Enquirer that he, three deputies, and a forensic driver met at the morgue at 4:30 a.m. in order to get the bodies into the U-Haul and to Atlanta before decomposition began. “We gotta do the best we can,” Bryan said.

He said it’s time to update the equipment with a van that’s made with a hydraulic lift, that will hold four bodies, two on a top rack and two on the bottom.

Bryan said the old van’s weight limit is inadequate.

In multiple cases, the morgue must transport bodies that weigh in the 250-to-300+ pounds category.

Bryan told The Ledger-Enquirer that they would need more money to expand the morgues and that it would cost less than $5,000 to remodel.

He told said that he’s 100% sure that the members of his city council will work with him and the coroner’s office to get on this issue and get it resolved quickly.

In a statement, City Manager Isaiah Hugley said:

“If the coroner has made a budget request for a van in his FY/2024 budget request submittal, it will be considered during the budget review process that will conclude in June 2023. The coroner did not request a transport van in his FY/2022 or FY/2023 budget submittal. If the need for a new transport van is an immediate emergency for the coroner’s office and the coroner makes that immediate emergency known, his request will be considered now as an emergency purchase situation. I have not heard from the coroner regarding an emergency related to a new transport van.”

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