Pathologist pushes need for new handling facility
Special ventilation and conditions are needed for decomposing remains.
WARREN -- Trumbull County's forensic pathologist would like the county to have its own facility for handling decomposing human remains.
The need for such a place was demonstrated July 1 when the body of a man was found in the Mahoning River by Perkins Park in Warren.
The body was identified by autopsy Friday as James Harrington, 53, no known address. The coroner's office and police await more information such as toxicology and microscopic studies before finalizing their investigation.
It took 90 minutes that Friday for officials to find a place to take Harrington on a hot and busy Fourth of July weekend, said Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk, the forensic pathologist.
"He sat there, lying outside for an hour and a half, no place to put him," he said.
The county coroner's office is responsible for transporting bodies from accident scenes and the like to the morgue or other autopsy facilities.
With the recent decomposition case, the facilities at Forum Health Trumbull Memorial Hospital were only used overnight, Dr. Germaniuk noted. Such decomposition cases require special ventilation and facilities.
Dr. Germaniuk said it took some persuading to get the Cuyahoga County medical examiner's office in Cleveland to take the body.
That's one reason he's now working with four engineering firms to get facts and figures for putting together the county's own airtight and ventilated facility, with a shower system, of about 400 to 600 square feet.
Such a facility could be free-standing or at a hospital, he said.
The facility could also be much larger if other counties decide they want to contribute. That could open the door for grant funding possibilities, he said.
Dr. Germaniuk said it makes no sense to have many small facilities when there could be one large regional one. He said he's trying to gather support for the idea.
The county's forensic pathologist was hired Jan. 1, 1998. He was chief forensic pathologist in Washington, D.C., and because of that he has become a valuable commodity in this region, testifying in several death cases.
The coroner's office pays Forum Health Trumbull Memorial Hospital $84 per case to use its facilities. Since 2000, about 73 percent to 82 percent of the coroner cases have been autopsied.