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VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS | COUNTYWIDE

Judge Shuts Down 3 Crematoriums

January 29, 1998|HILARY E. MacGREGOR

An administrative court judge ordered three Southern California crematoriums to temporarily shut down Wednesday, after inspectors found stacks of nonrefrigerated bodies at a Los Angeles branch.

The order against the Neptune Society branches in San Pedro, Burbank and Santa Barbara and the Heritage Crematory, which operates them, will be in effect for 20 days, pending a hearing on the matter.

The Neptune Society and its facility in Santa Barbara were recently named in a civil suit filed in Ventura County Superior Court by a county resident.

In that suit, Joyce Adams contends the crematories dumped her father's ashes in the bottom of a creek bed rather than scattering them at sea, as negotiated.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday January 31, 1998 Ventura County Edition Metro Part B Page 5 Zones Desk 2 inches; 46 words Type of Material: Correction
Neptune Society--A story Thursday about Neptune Society crematories incorrectly reported that three branches in San Pedro, Burbank and Santa Barbara are closed. They remain open, subject to a hearing within the next 20 days. The three branches have been on probation with the state Consumer Affairs Department since June 1997.

Her father's ashes, the suit alleges, were mixed in a sack with 53 others and dumped in a dry arroyo near Tehachapi in Kern County.

The Kern County district attorney recently settled a suit with the Neptune Society over that incident.

An official from the state Department of Consumer Affairs said Wednesday that the most recent discovery is similar to the case in Kern County.

"It is related in that it is the same three Neptune Societies, and the same license," said G.V. Ayers, who heads the department's cemetery and funeral programs.

According to Ayers, the nonrefrigerated bodies were discovered during random inspections Jan. 13 to 15. They were covered with loose plastic, cloth sheets or body bags and were stacked in several piles. Some of the bodies were actively decomposing and leaking fluids onto the floor, Ayers said.

The three Neptune Society branches have been on probation with the state since 1991, and as a result are subject to random inspections.

The 17 other Neptune Society operations in California are unrelated to these three, and are not included in the judge's suspension order, Ayers said.

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