Coroner: Moving Of Obese Woman's Body Was Respectful

Body Dragged From Home, Tied Down On Flatbed

The Marion County coroner said Thursday that the removal of the body of an obese woman following her death was as respectful as the situation allowed.

The office was criticized after a towing service was called in to remove the body of Teresa Smith, 48, who weighed 750 pounds, after she died in her northeast side apartment Tuesday.

Smith's boyfriend and the couple's 13-year-old son, along with several neighbors, said they watched as Smith's body, still on her mattress, was dragged across the courtyard of the apartment complex, strapped down on the wrecker and covered with a piece of carpet.

Coroner Frank Lloyd Jr. told 6News' Jack Rinehart Thursday that the removal of Smith's body was done with as much discretion as possible.

"What's the downside of using a flatbed truck if it's done in a respectful manner?" he said. "It's not a good sight to see a body on the back of a truck. In certain situations though, you might not have any options."

Lloyd said he was told that the proper equipment to handle Smith's body was not at the scene. But officials who were at the home on Tuesday told Rinehart that there was a gurney capable of handling 1,100 pounds and a vehicle large enough to transport the body. There were also eight to 10 firefighters, along with police personnel.

Lloyd said that if the equipment was at the scene, that there would have been no reason to go outside normal protocol, which is the transport the body inside a vehicle. But he also said that the call might have been made in the interest of public safety.

"When you take two fire engines out of commission to handle this particular situation … if an emergency happens, they cannot respond," he said. "I'm not saying the decedent didn't deserve to have all resources available to handle the situation, but that's kind of the decision that has to be made."

Lloyd said that there have been instances in the past where a flatbed trailer was used to transport the bodies of obese individuals, but he said the last time was in 1998.

The body removal service contracted by the coroner's office told 6News Thursday that it has equipment to handle obese individuals, and that it moved the remains of an 800-pound person two weeks ago with a special gurney and two employees.

Wishard Memorial Hospital and at least three private ambulance services said that they also have equipment capable of carrying 1,000 pounds, including Rural Metro Ambulance, which has a gurney rated at carrying 1,600 pounds.

The Indiana State Coroner's Association said it has no specific recommendations to handle extremely obese people. The decision is left up to each county.

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