Families on the hook for re-burials - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Families on the hook for re-burials

Cordele-- Damaged roads and washed out bridges weren't the only things left by the storms that pounded Crisp County Easter weekend.

Several graves flooded causing the caskets to float to the top. Now family members are shocked to find out they will have to be responsible for any repairs to the graves.

Crime scene tape marks ten graves in the Westview Cemetery. One of those belongs to Joe Ann Kerr's mother-in-law. "It was just devastating because I had seen it in '94, but I never thought it would hit Cordele. Then I went home and I had nightmares," said Kerr.

The caskets didn't completely surface, but water forced them about a foot out of the ground. "I know it rained and rained and rained and all that, but it had to be a reason for it to push them up that easy," Kerr says.

"There's not a creek nearby. All we could figure is that we got so much water for the past two weeks," says Sheriff Donnie Haralson. "The vault actually filled up with water and the caskets came about that far out of the ground and they came up from the foot end."

Haralson says this the first time anything like this has happened at the cemetery. Water was pumped from the graves, allowing the caskets to settle back down in their graves, but some of them may have to be re-buried.

Something family members will have to pay for. "It shocking to know that nobody is responsible for this," she said.

Nobody is responsible because no one is claiming ownership of Westview Cemetery. Sheriff Haralson says it was left from an estate years ago, and now belongs to no one.

Kerr says having the families foot the bill is unacceptable. "A lot of them the other family members are dead, so who's going to see about those. Some of them are out of the state and you can't contact them, so who's going to see about those," Kerr says.

Kerr says she's glad her father-in-law's casket wasn't harmed, but is hoping the local governments will step in and help provide a permanent way for her mother-in-law to rest in peace.

Sheriff Haralson says GEMA will not offer any assistance because there is no threat to public health. He says the city and county governments will look into whether they'll be able to help the families offset the cost of the repairs and re-burials.

posted by dave.miller@walb.com