Franklin County’s coroner needed a better way to transport the deceased. Here’s what he got

Franklin County Courthouse, Pasco.
Franklin County Courthouse, Pasco. File

When he was running for the office of coroner, Curtis McGary called for the Franklin County coroner’s office to start transporting bodies.

Police officers and road crews needed to stick around for hours of extra time while they waited for a funeral home to show up, he said. He called the delay an unnecessary waste of time.

McGary is now turning his campaign promise into a reality.

Franklin County commissioners recently signed off on buying a $40,000 Ford F150 along with the equipment necessary to move bodies.

While most of the deaths the coroner’s officer reviews come from hospitals, assisted living facilities and other health care facilities, the coroner’s office did need to move about 43 people from where they died.

In each of those cases, the coroner relied on funeral homes to move the remains. They would either take it to their business or to the Benton County morgue for an autopsy.

They also did it for free, hoping in return that the family would use the funeral home for the services. The funeral homes said they could no longer do that, County Administrator Keith Johnson said.

Funeral homes had to start charging

So far, the funeral homes have charged the county about $325, and McGary estimated it could happen about a dozen times a year.

“That can be an expensive proposition for the county. ... It’s clear that we need some vehicle to transport those remains,” Johnson said.

While the coroner’s office has three vehicles, they’re too old and not equipped to reach the places the coroner’s office needs them to reach, McGary and Johnson said.

The coroner was looking for a four-wheel drive vehicle that could reach some of the more remote areas in the county.

Once the coroner’s office gets the new truck this spring, they will take the remains to the funeral home of the family’s choice or take them to one on a rotational basis. In the case of an autopsy, the person will go to the morgue in Benton County.

Cameron Probert covers breaking news and education for the Tri-City Herald, where he tries to answer readers’ questions about why police officers and firefighters are in your neighborhood. He studied communications at Washington State University.