A detainee’s attempt to escape from the Jessup Correctional Institution in Maryland ended tragically Yesterday, as the man who was hiding inside a cadaver bag was accidentally cremated alive by county morgue employees.
41-year old Gary Smith had served 18 months of a 12-year sentence for a series of armed robberies committed in 2014 and had been in Jessup for only five months, after attempting to escape from the Brockbridge Correctional Facility earlier this year.
Mr. Smith allegedly took advantage of the demise of another detainee, somehow disposing of the body and hiding inside the body bag himself in order to fool prison security and leave the perimeter of the prison.
The first part of his plan worked perfectly, but unfortunately for him, he seems to have fallen asleep or lost consciousness during his transport to the county morgue.
It was only when they launched the cremation process and heard horrifying screams that the staff noticed something was wrong, but it was already too late.
The director of the Howard County Morgue’s Medical Examiner’s Office, Terence Anderson, described the horrifying screams that he and his colleagues heard.
“There was so much agony and pain in his voice, it was blood-chilling! We hurried to shut everything down, but he was totally carbonized before we could do anything!”
Mr. Anderson says it’s surprising that the detainee didn’t run away before the cremation, saying he’d been left alone on a stretcher for more than three hours before the process began.
“I find a bit of comfort in thinking he wasn’t only a criminal, but probably not the smartest one either… but I still feel guilty about how this turned out.”
The Howard County Sheriff’s Office and the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services have announced a joint investigation to determine the exact circumstances of Mr. Smith’s escape and death.
Accidental cremations of living individuals are rather rare across the United States, with an average of only seven cases reported annually.
In most of these cases, the victims are comatose hospital patients misidentified as dead by the medical staff.
Mr. Smith’s case is considered “extremely concerning” by the state’s Medical Examiner’s Office which also launched an internal investigation to make sure that this kind of accident doesn’t happen again.