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11/16: Kenyon stops collecting bodies; history of their involvement

As of mid-November, the number of recoveries had dwindled to a one or two a week, and Kenyon International Emergency Services' contract to do collections ended around that time.
The backstory is in this story from 11/16:

Kenyon... first arrived in the storm-ravaged region Sept. 7 as a short-term contractor for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Six days later the company signed a contract with the state after nearly pulling out of Louisiana entirely because of what a top executive characterized as government "roadblocks" that thwarted recovery teams' ability to maintain professional standards.
The deal was sealed amid cries from Gov. Kathleen Blanco, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, D-La., and U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville, that too few people were handling the dead, some of whose bodies lay exposed in the streets. FEMA policy prohibited tens of thousands of National Guard troops and municipal police officers on the ground at the time from touching the bodies, except to tag them and report their locations to higher authorities.
Since mid-September, Johannessen said he has not fielded any complaints about Kenyon, which worked at the World Trade Center site in 2001 and retrieved the bodies of Australian citizens in Thailand after last year's tsunami. He said the state expects to be fully reimbursed by the federal government for the cost of Kenyon's contract.
The company collected more than 800 bodies, mostly from Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes, and brought them to St. Gabriel, state officials said. As of Nov. 9, the tally of hurricane deaths had reached 1,056, with 883 bodies examined at St. Gabriel...

"Unanswered stuff" at the St. Gabriel morgue

From "At Storm Victim's Funeral, a Celebration of a Life and a City":

Only 40 percent of the 883 bodies at the central morgue in St. Gabriel, La., have been released to families, and many victims - out of an estimated total of 1,050 in Louisiana and 230 in Mississippi - remain nameless or unclaimed.

Now, over to "Bungled Records of Storm Deaths Renew Anguish":

As families finally begin to receive the bodies of their relatives from St. Gabriel, many have found them accompanied by documents that, instead of shedding light on their deaths, point to enormous sloppiness in recordkeeping and procedures at the morgue.
Some have complained of bodies far more decomposed when they came out than when they went in; others that evacuees who died in the company of their families were taken to St. Gabriel without notice and kept there for weeks.
Moreover, as of Friday not a single DNA sample from victims had been matched against samples submitted by families over the past two months, said Dr. Louis Cataldie, the state emergency medical director. Dr. Cataldie said that was because federal officials had not yet approved a DNA testing contract with a laboratory. And the director of the federal mortuary team at the Find Family Call Center, responsible for communicating with the families of victims, was arrested last week on charges that he had solicited sex in a public park in Baton Rouge...
...Many were already upset by news reports about victims that have received prominent attention here, including unproved allegations of mercy killings in New Orleans hospitals during the flood and the cremation of some bodies in the northwestern parish of Caddo before their families could locate them...
...Dr. Cataldie is nominally responsible for the operations of the morgue and call center, although both are staffed by the federal Disaster Mortuary Operations Response Team, or Dmort. He acknowledged there had been considerable error entry, and said some bodies had been delivered without accurate paperwork noting where they had been found.
In the past week, Dr. Cataldie has begun to review all the paperwork filled out by Kenyon Worldwide Disaster Management, a company hired by the federal government to collect many of the bodies, in an effort to ferret out errors. It is possible, he said, that some mistakes can be explained by missing street signs or unfamiliar place names.
He has less control over the stalled DNA tests, for which the state police crime laboratory initially assumed responsibility. Officials at the state Department of Health and Hospitals said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency declined to approve contracts negotiated by the state police with two laboratories, saying the contracts were too expensive. The agency has since shifted responsibility for the contract to the federal Department of Health and Human Services. Nicol Andrews, a spokeswoman for FEMA, said the agency had been struggling to find a way legally to use federal money to pay for the tests because the state was unable to front the costs, and had only recently concluded that the health and hospitals department could do so...
"I realize that we're dealing with a catastrophe, and grief is part of life," said Cindy Jensen, whose father, LeRoy LaRive, is listed as having been found in an apartment miles from his home - an apartment where another older man also died. "But not this kind of stuff. Unanswered stuff. Not knowing the details."
...From the first days after Hurricane Katrina, the process of identifying and burying the dead has been troubled by problems. It took more than a week for officials to begin collecting bodies, and the state fell far behind neighboring Mississippi in getting bodies back to families. Even now, only 358 of the 883 victims processed at St. Gabriel (there are 1,050 victims in Louisiana) have been released to families, and in 150 cases, workers have no leads on the identities of the bodies...

Previously: Who delayed body collection: Blanco, FEMA, or Kenyon? and Mortician contradicts reports downplaying crime, Part 2.

Who delayed body collection: Blanco, FEMA, or Kenyon?

La. Gov. Blamed for Slow Removal of Bodies

Bodies of people killed by Hurricane Katrina went uncollected for more than a week in the New Orleans area as the federal government waited for Louisiana's governor to decide what to do with them, according to memos released Thursday by a Republican-led House committee.
The 38 pages of e-mail between FEMA representatives and Pentagon officials contradict the contention by Louisiana's Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco, two weeks after Katrina hit on Aug. 29, that the federal government was moving too slowly to recover the bodies...
The memos indicate that morgues were not ready to receive bodies until Sept. 7 - two days after the first memo complaining about Blanco's inaction, and nine days after Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast...
..."This issue must be addressed, and frankly, there is operations paralysis at this point," [Army Col. John J. Jordan, the military assistant to former Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael Brown] wrote [in a Sep 5 email]. "FEMA is pushing state to see what they want to do, and indications are that governor is involved in some of the decisions," especially regarding burial.
"Believe organized collection must begin today once morgue is operational or it will become evident to media that plan for collection is not in place," Jordan wrote in the e-mail, which was sent to Brown and Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honore, the military coordinator for the disaster.
But the morgue did not open until two days later, according to the Sept. 7 e-mail from Jordan.
"First morgue site is fully operational," Jordan wrote to the Pentagon officials. "...Believe media and family member interest will continue to cause security concerns."
Nearly a week later, on Sept. 13, Blanco lashed out at the federal government, accusing it of moving too slowly in recovering the bodies and saying it was disrespectful to wait so long.
Blanco spokesman Bob Mann said Thursday it was FEMA's responsibility for removing bodies, which was delayed because the agency failed to sign a contract with Houston-based Kenyon International Emergency Services to do so.
Blanco "was almost literally jumping up and down and screaming about FEMA's failure to execute the contract with Kenyon," Mann said. "There were few things during that period that were more important and more urgent to the governor than doing something about this body removal. It was important to her that these people be treated with dignity, that these bodies not be allowed to lay out in the street."
"Yes, there was paralysis, but it was on the part of FEMA," Mann said.
Kenyon International's president Robert Jensen said in a telephone interview Thursday night that it was his company's decision not to sign a contract with FEMA. He declined to give reasons, other than to say that money was not the issue. Kenyon later accepted a contract with the state...

Odd: death toll tops 1000; "body bag buying binge" recounted

The blurb "Katrina's death toll in La. tops 1,000" has a little more on the first part of the title.
The K-R article "Chaotic coordination had government scrambling for body bags" (also here) describes FEMA's frantic search for more bags, all the while that they had thousands of bags on hand, including a thousand at a state government office in Louisiana. You might not want to read the end of that article or this paragraph: they claim that due to the conditions of some bodies up to three bags were required. As well, they put pets and those disinterred in their own bags.
Of course, that could also result in conspiracy theories being developed.
See also the AP's 9/7 article "25,000 body bags on hand in Louisiana".
An unverified summary of the numbers is here:

2004/05 DOD 25,000 ordered for Iraq/Afg
2004/05 DOD 89,748 ordered for US
8/26/05 NOLA 1,000 onhand in Coroners off.
8/26/05 DOD 100,000 on hand in CA/PA/US
9/xx/01 FEMA 25,000 ordered for MS/LA
9/7/05 FEMA 3,000 on hand MS DMORT
9/7/05 FEMA 8,000 on hand LA DMORT
9/7/05 DOD 17,000 on hand LA DMORT
9/7/05 FEMA/DOD ordered 50,000 status not known
9/xx/05 LA/Kenyon 12,500 ordered in contract with Kenyon
9/xx/05 FEMA 10,000 canceled
10/xx/05 DOD 30,000 ordered not del yet
Costs (25,000 body bags @ $5-50 dollars (SC bags needed 3 per body)
FEMA/MS/LA $250,000 Early Sept 05
LA $25,000 Sept 12 (bought through Kenyon?)
Note: Pets and disinterred bodies also got body bags(Yah, sure)DOD might have sent more to MS.

LA death toll 964, MS at 221; are those too low?

Unless someone reports something, they've stopped counting in Louisiana:

State and federal agencies have finished their sweeps through the city, but Kenyon International Emergency Services, the private company hired by the state to remove the bodies, is on call if any other body is found, said Bob Johannessen, a spokesman with the state Department of Health and Hospitals...
Last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it had completed its role in the search because its specialties were no longer needed, including getting to bodies in attics or other hard-to-reach places or in buildings that may be structurally unsound.
FEMA did nearly 23,000 thorough room-to-room searches in New Orleans with about a dozen teams of emergency workers...

See also "Families Lose Loved Ones Again -- in a Bureaucratic Mire":

...A month after Katrina upended the lives of hundreds of thousands, families of the dead have been traumatized again by the ordeal of trying to pry their loved ones' bodies from a bureaucratic quagmire. They say they have spent weeks being rebuffed or ignored by state and federal officials at a massive temporary morgue that houses hundreds of decomposed corpses...
...[The state official in charge of the morgue, Dr. Louis Cataldie], a former medical examiner, acknowledged that identifying and releasing bodies had been painfully slow. Of more than 800 bodies delivered to the St. Gabriel morgue, he said, 32 have been positively identified and 340 have been tentatively identified...
"I'm a professional in the business, a licensed funeral director, and they won't tell me anything," [someone else] said. "It's ridiculous how secretive they are."

Now, for the questions the MSM should be asking but isn't, let's turn to, yes, the DUmmies:
Sep 30 Katrina Officially missing 10,417; Officially dead 935 LA, 221 MS
The numbers are not in the "dead' but the "missing'
What is the actual Bush body count in New Orleans and...
Also, "Many listed as missing may not be after all":

About 2,500 people are still listed as missing or unaccounted for more than a month after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. But fortunately, the numbers are misleading, according to Larry Upchurch, deputy director of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Upchurch said he is confident the vast majority of people on the list - most of them children - have been reunited or at least been in contact with their loved ones, although officials haven't been notified.

The 9/29 LAT article "Katrina's Corpses Are Many, IDs Are Few" (also here and here) appears to be the predecessor to the above LAT article, and, oddly enough, it contains this:

With 10 bodies recovered Tuesday, officials said, the number of flood victims in the state Wednesday was 896. Just more than 100 bodies were turned over to local coroners and are not included in the tally at the temporary morgue.

Also odd, the Concord Monitor version of the LAT article, entitled "Loss of bodies adds to grief of many families", contains this:

Cataldie, a former medical examiner, acknowledged that identifying and releasing bodies has been painfully slow. Of the nearly 8,000 bodies taken to the morgue, he said, just 32 have been identified positively and another 340 have been identified tentatively.

What an odd typo to make. Is that what it said in the original LAT article, and the LAT changed it? Or, did the CM change it, then add the comma to the number? I'll ask: news *at* cmonitor.com
UPDATE: The NYT's "Weeks Later, Most Storm Victims Lie Unnamed" doesn't have much more beyond what's above.

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