Crews try to identify remains, tombs displaced by Isaac

Published: Sep. 18, 2012 at 9:31 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 29, 2016 at 8:56 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn
English Turn Cemetery in Braithwaite
English Turn Cemetery in Braithwaite

Crews in Plaquemines Parish work to put dozens of tombs and coffins back in their original spots after they were unearthed during Hurricane Isaac.

Mike Charles and his nephew are on a mission, searching the English Turn Cemetery in Braithwaite for the remains of their relatives.

"Everybody in here is family. So most of the family know where the vault's at, we just got to find them," Charles said.

During the storm, some tombs floated up onto the levee. Others floated onto people's properties.

It's a disturbing sight to see. Charles could only say, "This, this is... all you can say is oh my god."

Many of the tombs that remain in the English Turn Cemetery are covered with blue tarps. The tarps protect exposed remains.  A group of volunteers from Texas help to lay down the tarps, and they say they've never dealt with anything like this before.

"It really wasn't in the plan but they called and we don't refuse help when we can possibly do that," said volunteer Jerry Jones.

Over at Promise Land Cemetery, forensic anthropologists from LSU work feverishly in tents, combing through remains.  Mary Manheim from the LSU FACES Laboratory explains, "The ones we're especially interested in are those that have been disassociated from their casket or from their tomb and there's no way to know who they are.  So our goal is to identify as many as we can."

They rely on information from relatives, like dental records, to figure out which remains belong in which tomb. Then the process of placing the tombs back into their original locations will begin.

"It's going to take a while to do this, perhaps several weeks," Manheim says."

Back at English Turn, Mike Charles has located the tombs containing the remains of his mother and uncle. They've floated away from where they used to be, but he was able to locate them. Still missing is his nephew.

With tombs stuck in trees, and some floating as far as a mile away, Charles fears it could be a while before his nephew's tomb is found.