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Bill makes rules for body transport

March 18, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

ANNAPOLIS -- A company hired to transport dead bodies in Washington County has been accused of taking hours to respond to a call and not showing the dead proper respect.

A bill being heard by state lawmakers today would create guidelines and a code of conduct for companies offering those services. The bill is sponsored by Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Allegany/Washington.

Dave Highbarger, who works with Kerfoot Livery Service in Hagerstown, said he has heard about unprofessional behavior by a competing company, Wyand Transport.

"They threw (a) mother and kids in the back of a station wagon like slabs of meat," Highbarger said.

Earl Wyand, who owns Marlowe, W.Va.- based Wyand Transport, said he was unaware of the complaints made against his company.

After being asked about specific complaints, Wyand said, "You know what ... don't bother me. Don't call me anymore. You're just trying to stir up trouble."

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Under Myers' bills, the Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene would have to adopt regulations that require a body transportation service to transport a body in a way that shows the deceased person proper dignity. Another bill would allow the deputy medical examiner or forensic investigator to consider response time when arranging for a body transport from the scene of a death.

Myers said the bills were prompted by "very unacceptable" behavior by a body transport service whose providers were drunk, wearing inappropriate clothing and had only a pickup truck when they arrived to transport bodies.

Myers said family members who are waiting hours for their loved one to be removed from the scene of an accident or crime would find it very traumatic for a body to be handled in that way.

Lt. David Kloos, Maryland State Police barrack commander in Hagerstown, said he is not aware of any complaints against Wyand since Kloos assumed the post in February 2008. Washington County Sheriff Douglas F. Mullendore and Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith were not available for comment Wednesday.

A Washington County Hospital spokeswoman said the hospital does not arrange for body transports. She was unable to confirm the names of the services the hospital uses.

Tom Wetzel is the owner of Kerfoot Livery, the only body transport business serving Washington County other than Wyand's.

Kerfoot has been providing the service for 41 years. Wetzel bought the company in 1991. Wetzel said his service and Wyand's are on a rotation to pick up bodies in Washington County.

Highbarger, who has been transporting bodies for about 30 years, said Kerfoot Livery is professional and responds to the scene to pick up a body within at least 25 minutes.

"We treat the bodies just like it's our own mommy and daddy, brother or sister," Highbarger said. "We treat them respect. They are a human body, and they were put on this earth just like God put me on this earth."

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