Burial At Sea, Without Coffin, Did Not Follow Protocol

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The family of a man whose dying wish was to be buried at sea may face charges stemming from that burial, which authorities say was in violation of federal guidelines for the disposal of human remains.

Daniel Scott Laskey, who died of Lou Gehrig’s disease in early September, had requested that he be buried at sea off the Florida coast near Fort Lauderdale, where he loved to go fishing with his wife. Sharon Laskey, other family members and the family’s pastor drove from the Laskeys’ home in Hickory, North Caroline the next day, after placing the body on dry ice.

On September 10, they boarded a private charter boat and sailed approximately four miles offshore from Port Everglades, Florida. After saying their final goodbyes, the family buried Laskey—wrapped in plastic and weighed down with unidentified objects—in the sea. They then went fishing, in his honor, according to the Broward County sheriff’s office.

A boater found Lasky’s body, naked except for one sock, floating face down off the coast of Hollywood, Florida—about 20 miles away—the next morning.

Sheriff’s deputies searched for information about the body, and eventually found an obituary in the Hickory Daily Record for Laskey, which included the line: “Burial will be at sea.” The body was taken to Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office, where an autopsy was performed on September 12.

Human remains which have not been cremated may be interred in the sea; however, the method is strictly regulated. State and federal protocols deem that the body be placed in a coffin of non-corrosive metal, that the coffin be secured, and that it contain at least six 2-inch-wide holes drilled in its lid and base. These regulations are intended to ensure that human remains sink to the bottom of the ocean both quickly and permanently.

Furthermore, the Code of Federal Regulations requires that the burial take place at least three nautical miles from land, and in water that is 600 feet deep or deeper. Laskey’s burial was at approximately three and a half nautical miles; it is undetermined how deep the water is at the site where his body entered the sea.

It is evident, however, that the preparation of his body did not conform to the federal guidelines requiring a metal coffin. It is unclear if the grieving family has broken any laws, nor whether charges will be brought against them.

A spokesperson for the Broward Sheriff’s Office, Veda Coleman-Wright, said that Sharon Lasky was cooperative and forthcoming in describing how she and the others prepared Daniel Lasky’s body for the nautical burial, but that she did have a death certificate issued in North Carolina and a burial transit permit.

The body remains at the medical examiner’s office, pending instructions from the family.

 

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