Meeting to discuss flooded cemetery has loved ones still seeking answers

VIDEO: Meeting to discuss flooded cemetery has loved ones still seeking answers

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Folks whose loved ones are buried at flooded Monrovia Cemetery are still looking for answers after a meeting Friday morning.

They met with State Rep. Wendell Gilliard to discuss the state of the cemetery, specifically the graves and vaults that were unearthed by flooding.

Heavy rains popped open grave vaults and exposed 10 caskets at Monrovia Cemetery in downtown Charleston. (Source: Live 5)
Heavy rains popped open grave vaults and exposed 10 caskets at Monrovia Cemetery in downtown Charleston. (Source: Live 5) (Live 5)

Flooding at the cemetery was reported in mid-December after a weekend with periods of heavy rain. Visitors who have loved ones buried at the cemetery saw several vaults lifted from the ground by floodwaters and approximately 10 caskets exposed on Dec. 16. Another dozen graves were still under seven inches of water.

Cemetery board member Bryan McNeil said at the time the problem is not the responsibility of the cemetery but rather the funeral homes that buried the caskets.

"If you weren't from here you would have thought that Monrovia cemetery was from a horror film," one woman said.

"It's ridiculous how that cemetery looks. headstones cracked. She's on a hill but when you look down it looks like it's sinking and it's sad," another woman said.

"If we cannot take care and respect the dignity of the dead, then what are we here saying that we're gonna resolve the problems of the living," Gilliard said.

Officials with the State Health Department and State Labor, Licensing and Regulation Board attended the meeting. Both said the flooding issue is out of their jurisdiction because the Monrovia is not licensed and is a non-perpetual care cemetery.

State Rep. Wendell Gilliard called a meeting on cemetery conditions for Friday, days after speaking to loved ones at the cemetery. (Source: Live 5)
State Rep. Wendell Gilliard called a meeting on cemetery conditions for Friday, days after speaking to loved ones at the cemetery. (Source: Live 5) (Live 5)

That means under state law the owners cannot be forced to make repairs.

None of the owners attended Friday’s meeting but a mortuary owner said if all caskets were required to be buried underground, there would not be a problem when the cemetery floods.

“Ten years ago we didn’t have this problem at Monrovia Cemetery, all those cemeteries in Charleston, but now Hollywood, James Island, all over water is settling,” Charlie Murray said.

Gilliard says he’s looking at several possible solutions on both the local and legislative level. Those include trying to get the law changed or get the City of Charleston’s code enforcement department involved. Gillard says a follow up meeting will be held in January.

Owners of Monrovia Cemetery did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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