Horry County Coroner’s Office feeling the influx of people moving to the area

Published: Mar. 10, 2022 at 5:46 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 10, 2022 at 5:59 PM EST
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - The coroner’s office is expressing serious concerns about how to handle the influx of people moving to Horry County.

During a recent Public Safety Committee meeting, Coroner Robert Edge told members his workers are stretched to the limits.

He then said his office needs to be in a position to match the growth leaders are seeing across our area, which includes bringing on more staff and a bigger facility.

Edge said they’re in desperate need of a forensic pathologist who can perform autopsies in the county. Right now, they’re having to send the bodies to Charleston, leading to four to five day wait times.

“For a family who’s lost someone and they’re going through grief, having to wait four to five days, [having a pathologist] would help them begin their grieving process a little earlier versus having to wait four to five days to do that. That’s a lot of pressure when you’re sitting around waiting on us to get an autopsy done,” Edge said.

But a big challenge on their plate right is a growing number of unclaimed people.

In some cases, it’s because a person is homeless and not able to be identified. Other times, it’s stemming from an issue with the family member.

“Families were notified and they said hey either we don’t have the money or we don’t want to spend the money, one or the two. We end of having them cremated [mainly on the account of space] and that’s going to be a growing problem as we continue to grow,” Edge said.

Edge said in many cases, the coroner’s office is holding bodies for nearly 30 days with limited cooler space.

“We have a cooler it stays full, it will hold 16 bodies,” Edge said. “There are some funeral homes who have some space who are very generous to let us use borrow some of their space when we need it.”

Edge said they do plan to get another cooler.

County leaders said they’re taking steps so they can assist the coroner’s office with their concerns, which could mean a new building in the future with more cooler space and a pathologist.

A county spokesperson provided this statement to WMBF News about their plans:

“The County is currently in the process of putting together a Request for Proposals (RFP) to procure a firm to do a space needs analysis. That RFP has not been completed or published and no firm has been contracted at this point. This project is currently in the Capital Improvements Plan for FY2027. We recognize the Coroner’s need, and County Council reassesses and updates the Capital Improvements Plan each year as a part of the budget process.”

Horry County Councilman Johnny Vaught, who serves on the Public Safety Committee, said these staffing and facility concerns from the coroner’s office are on county leaders’ radar. He and others see the benefit of these additions to the county and families.

“So when an autopsy is needed in a criminal investigation or regular courts, we don’t have to send a body all the way to Charleston and pay those services down there and wait for that period of time. We’d rather have somebody on staff,” Vaught said.

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