Hillside Cemetery dealing with caskets coming out of the ground after heavy rain

Local News

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Local leaders are dealing with the aftermath of yesterday’s flooding after several caskets floated out of their vaults at the Callaway Cemetery and Hillside Cemetery.

Community activist, Tony Bostick, went to check on Hillside after hearing reports that Thursday’s flooding pulled several graves out of the ground.

Bostick said he thinks overcrowding is contributing to the problem.

“One of the bigger issues here is that with this amount of rain, and you don’t have the proper spacing of the graves here because it’s overpopulated,” Bostick said.

However, Panama City city officials said over-population is not the issue.

“It has to do with the rain and there’s nothing — in other words, you’ve got a certain amount of rain and you have to go back and take care of it and fix it but it has nothing to do with the population of the cemetery,” said Panama City Mayor, Greg Brudnicki.

Brudnicki said the cemetery is privately owned. As far as moving the casket’s from their plot, cleaning them up, and re-burying them he said it’s against the law for the city to do that.

“Without having a family’s permission — you cannot just pull a casket out of the ground,” Brudnicki said. “You’ve got to know the rules and the laws and so some of the rumors that have been spread are just plain wrong.”

Local Funeral Director, Russell Wright Sr., said caskets coming out of the ground as a result of heavy rain is a natural event and there’s no way to fully prepare for it.

“This is not just germane to Panama City it happens all over the state of Florida,” Wright said. “So we are very sensitive to the situation, we are very concerned and as I said right now we are working to rectify the problem.”

Wright insists the problem is being taken care of and that other funeral directors with impacted vaults will work together to respectfully fix the problem.

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