A morgue truck worker in New York City has told of the gruesome duties of transporting the dead bodies of those who have succumbed to COVID-19.
Erik Frampton, 46, was hired as a temporary worker at a refrigerated morgue trailer after stay-at-home orders shut down his boutique art framing business that he runs with his husband.
In a column in Gothamist, Frampton explained how the morgue operation had run out of body bags and space, leading the bodies to rip through thin, temporary bags and expose tubes from where ventilators had been connected.
‘If I could describe the utter chaos of needing to remove 50 to 80 bodies in a jigsaw arrangement in order to maneuver the shelving over them, I would. But words escape me,’ he wrote.
He said the job pays $75 an hour. ‘They write a check for your first day, in case you don’t come back.’
Erik Frampton, 46, was hired as a temporary worker at a refrigerated morgue trailer in New York City after his art framing business shut down
Frampton explained how the morgue operation had run out of body bags and space, leading the bodies to rip through temporary bags or bed sheets
Frampton said he jumped at the job opportunity without thinking through what would be required of him and how emotionally draining it would be.
On Saturday morning, he revealed on Facebook that he had been fired – which came as a relief to him and his family.
‘The bodies inside the trailer were not well marked. Sometimes we were forced to open up the bags to find ankle or wrist bracelets,’ he told WNYC reporter Arun Venugopal. ‘We use hospital bed sheets where bags have failed. There are tons of blood and fecal matter, etc., that have leaked out. The floor is sometimes streaked with it.
‘They have obviously run out of body bags and space, with the heavy black bags being replaced with very thin white ones. Some are barely in the bags because they have ripped so many times. Almost all of the remains still have their tubes in them, especially the ventilator connections. Most of the index fingers clearly read ”Covidean”.’
The city has been setting up dozens of refrigerated mobile morgues for weeks outside of hospitals in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
‘I think I’m scared of dying. I don’t want to die. I’m definitely scared,’ he said. Frampton (left) is pictured with his husband Kirby, who worried for his safety daily
The city has been setting up dozens of refrigerated mobile morgues for weeks outside of hospitals in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic
The job pays $75 and hour and he said they write a check for your first day, in case you don’t come back
New York City has become the epicenter with 122,148 cases and 7,890 deaths as of Saturday morning.
Frampton explained that he and a crew of 10 worked in one of two full size 20 ton air-cooled trailers. Each trailer can hold about 110 bodies.
‘Installing the three-tier shelves was delayed because they were being built hurriedly off-site and kept arriving through 4 p.m.
‘Almost all of the remains still have their tubes in them, especially the ventilator connections. Most of the index fingers clearly read ”Covidean”, he said
‘At that point half of the shelving had been installed and bodies two abreast had been hoisted and manhandled and lifted into place.
‘Most of my first four hours yesterday was hand-writing a master inventory list with MR numbers (a dead person’s digits). Three bodies were not found for funeral directors who showed up to collect them.’
Frampton said he tried to protect himself as best he could with the PPE provided to them.
‘We are dressed in two layers of body aprons to prevent liquids from splashing on us. Two layered masks–hospital grade – and unlimited gloves.
‘We do not know if the bodies can generate aspirating [COVID-19] particles during their continuing leakage and decomposition, and constant temperature flux.’
Frampton revealed he was fired from his job Saturday, which came as a relief to his family who worried for his safety
He wrote of the toll the job was taking on his family and the measures he’d taken to not spread the virus to his husband Kirby – efforts that he felt came up short.
‘We are isolating, in a weird way. We’re not touching. We’re not kissing. But we sleep in the same bed. So it’s all just farce,’ he said.
‘I think I’m scared of dying. I don’t want to die. I’m definitely scared,’ he added.
On Saturday morning, after his story appeared in Gothamist, Frampton said he had been fired.
‘I was fired from the duties presented to me by fate and the management of the site that was asked of me, totaling some 200 deceased local residents and eight loyal and deserving individual workers bringing their best to a morbid crisis, solvable only with human labor,’ he said.
‘I fell standing, but standing up for my crew, who literally lifted the dead weight on our shoulders. We helped share also, each others’ living weight, hopping up and down off the back of the trailers each time. Our PPE’s ripping a little more each time. The makeshift stairs suffering more collapse each time.
‘It will take me some time to come down from the adrenaline of being there. Of the monumental ask,’ he said.