(BY ERIC EYRE, CHARLESTON GAZETTE-MAIL) – Business is booming for one somber industry in West Virginia: the transportation of dead bodies.
The state’s Department of Health and Human Resources paid private contractors $881,620 in fiscal year 2017 to shuttle corpses from one place to another — more than double the expense two years before. The number of body transports went from about 2,200 in fiscal year 2015 to about 4,200 in fiscal year 2017 (which ended June 30).
Public health officials and funeral directors alike blame West Virginia’s soaring number of fatal drug overdoses for those sharp increases.
Jim Lowry, who’s been in the funeral business for 62 years, came out of retirement three years ago to help Charleston Mortuary Services handle the increase in bodies that must be shipped to the state morgues. Needle marks on arms and hands and body bag tags that read “Pending Tox” identify those who likely died of a drug overdose. They are mostly younger adults, ages 18 to 30.
“Now, it’s nothing for us to have two or three in the same day … or six or seven in a week,” said Lowry, a licensed embalmer. “It’s just out of sight.”
Photo Courtesy: Charleston Gazette-Mail