Kane County morgue workers say bodies overwhelm facility

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The Kane County Morgue sometimes gets more cases than it can handle, and workers complain that the smell is overwhelming. (WLS)

The Kane County Morgue sometimes gets more cases than it can handle, and workers complain that the smell is overwhelming.

Scented candles burn throughout the Kane County Coroner's Office. Air fresheners are hanging throughout as well, especially in the lab where they do autopsies and in the cooler where they keep bodies of the deceased.

The small facilities mean bodies are usually decomposing outside the cooler, and employees said the odor can be overwhelming.

"It's a strong smell. You look around and see everyone with their shirt up to their face trying to self-filter the smell also," said Carol Mckellar, coroner's employee,

The building that now houses the morgue has been here nearly a century. At one time it was a laundry facility for a religious seminary. It's been remodeled several times since, but coroner's employees said it's still woefully inadequate. The freezer has space for only three bodies, and freezing is the only way to stop decomposition and the odor.

In the last few weeks they've had nine bodies they've been unable to put in the freezer.

"We make it work here because we don't have any other choice," said Loren Carrera, Chief Deputy Coroner.

The coroner is hoping for a new facility which he said much of the county board supports. But he said the county board president has yet to act on it.

"I think it's unfortunate we have a responsibility to the taxpayers and some political vendettas are continuing," said Rob Russell, Kane County Coroner.

The Kane County Coroner handles about 3,000 bodies a year, including everything from natural deaths at home to violent crime scenes. Coroner's employees often have to go into extremely unsanitary conditions to retrieve bodies, and when they return they have no shower or laundry at the office.

"Would we like to wash our clothes here after coming back from some of these scenes? Absolutely. But we don't have any other option," Loren said.
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