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House committee hears Myers' bills on body transports

March 19, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

ANNAPOLIS -- Current practice would allow anyone with a working vehicle to transport a dead body to the state medical examiner in the trunk of their car, according to Tom Wetzel, who owns a Hagerstown body transport company.

Wetzel testified Thursday before a House of Delegates committee in favor of legislation introduced by Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Allegany/Washington, that would ensure more regulation of body transportation services.

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.

Wetzel, who owns Kerfoot Livery Service, said a competing company, Wyand Transport based in Marlowe, W.Va., has acted unprofessionally.

Earl Wyand, who owns Wyand Transport, declined to comment for a Herald-Mail story Wednesday and asked that he not be contacted in the future.

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The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene offered written testimony Thursday in support of Myers' bills, but stated "Existing (Office of the Chief Medical Examiner) regulations not only require a body to be transported with the appropriate dignity, but the transport shall also be conducted in such a way as to protect those persons who provide transport services and others from communicable diseases."

However, Wetzel said that's not true, and there are no rules regarding body removal. Wetzel said the guidelines offered in Myers' bills would ensure more companies operate like Kerfoot Livery.

Myers said he was told there have been complaints about a body transport service responding to deaths in Washington County.

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 was unable to be reached for comment. Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith said his department has not filed any complaints against Wyand, but said he heard state police had.

A Washington County Hospital spokeswoman said Wyand and Kerfoot do pick up bodies at the hospital, but officials did not know of any complaints made against Wyand.

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