Hurricane Laura causes caskets to float away in Cameron Parish

Damaged cemetery in Cameron Parish
Damaged cemetery in Cameron Parish(KPLC)
Published: Sep. 16, 2020 at 10:41 AM CDT
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CAMERON, La. (KPLC) - The living were not the only ones uprooted by Hurricane Laura.

When Hurricane Rita struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, there were more than 300 bodies that were missing from cemeteries in Cameron Parish. Fifteen years later, the same has happened again.

“This is just devastating,” said Ali Kelley. “Never dreamed I’d go through this again.”

Many of Kelley’s family members are buried in the Sacred Heart Cemetery.

“My brother-in-law, he was actually buried in the mausoleum for Rita,” Kelley said. “They found him and put him in the ground because they just couldn’t go through that again.”

Their bodies and stories scattered amongst the rubble left behind from Hurricanes Laura and Rita.

“At the Labove Cemetery, quite a few went missing and I think there’s one still missing from Rita that we never found,” Kelley said.

Scott Trahan served as police jury president during Rita and is now vice president during Laura.

“We were all younger and nobody had ever seen that in 48 years,” Trahan said. “We came in and a DMARC team came in along with locals that had airboats and started picking up the caskets and stuff and boats bringing them in.”

It was a scene that played out almost a month after Rita made landfall.

“The mausoleums, this time here, there’s a lot of them gone,” Trahan said. “Most of them are out the mausoleum and I think six in Sacred Heart that came out of the ground. We’ve probably got 15 to 18 cemeteries around this area.”

There are many caskets still in the marshes along the coast, which is partly why they’re calling for a temporary ban on hunting and fishing in the parish.

“There’s caskets, propane bottles, and no telling what’s out there,” Trahan said. “You could be trying to get to a duck blind and run into that. So that’s why we’re not wanting any hunting or fishing until things are safer.”

In 2005, the expense to restore peace to the lost souls of Cameron Parish was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Trahan says it’s an expense that will more than likely repeats itself due to Laura.

“It means a lot to find those loved ones,” Trahan said. “When it comes to the mausoleums, I mentioned to the bishop that we might have to start putting everybody in the ground. To get new caskets and rebury, it’s an expense and a lot of worry for people trying to find loved ones.”

At this time, the coroner for Cameron Parish believes at least 150 bodies are displaced but he says that number could easily reach up to 350 once they assess the damage at every cemetery along the coast.

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