BUCKS COUNTY, Penn. -- The Bucks County Coroner’s Office believes a mechanical malfunction with a rear door caused a corpse strapped to a gurney to fall from one of its vehicles onto Street Road in Lower Southampton.
The incident happened Friday near the Bucks Crossing Shopping Center east of Bustleton Pike around noon, when a coroner’s office employee realized the rear door had malfunctioned while transporting a body, according to a county news release Saturday night.
The unidentified driver of the transport vehicle immediately knew that the malfunction occurred and returned to retrieve the corpse and the gurney with the help of a bystander “in a matter of moments,” according to the release.
The vehicle was headed toward the county coroner’s office in Warminster, county spokesman Chris Edwards said.
“Care was taken to respect the deceased individual in this instance. The Bucks County Coroner’s Office deeply regrets this incident and will take steps to ensure that it is not repeated in the future,” the release said.
Bucks County resident Jerry Bradley assisted the driver after he encountered the gurney while he was waiting at a traffic light at the shopping center intersection.
As he pulled onto Street Road he noticed the gurney in the intersection, he said. That part of the four-lane highway is under construction and down to one lane in each direction, he said.
Cars were driving around the stretcher. Bradley pulled over.
“I thought someone was playing a prank. Someone is pranking people,” Bradley said Saturday night. “It was the most bizarre thing I’d ever seen.”
After Bradley got out of his car and approached the stretcher he realized what it was, he said. Around that time, he noticed a woman wearing a Bucks County Coroner’s Office T-shirt walking down Street Road from the nearby Dunkin’ Donuts.
The woman was on a cellphone and Bradley said he heard her telling someone that the rear door of the vehicle just popped open, he said. Bradley described the vehicle as similar to a work truck and marked County Coroner’s Office.
Bradley said he pushed the gurney out of traffic and over to the woman on the sidewalk. She thanked him, then pushed the stretcher back to the vehicle in the nearby parking lot, he said.
Afterward, Bradley said he called a coworker at the Feasterville alternative school where he works and told her what happened.
“You’ll never believe this,” he told her. She didn’t.
That is until Bradley posted onto his Facebook page a photo he snapped of the body, which was inside a bag and wrapped in a sheet and strapped to a gurney, in the middle of the intersection.
He posted the picture on his Facebook page Friday. As of Saturday night it had been shared 1,380 times, according to the page.
“I have to keep going back to look at it to believe it happened,” he said. “I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. If that was my loved one I’d be angry.”
County spokesman Edwards referred all other questions about the incident to Coroner Dr. Joseph Campbell, including if family of the deceased person was notified of the incident and if the vehicle had previous mechanical problems or recalls.
The newspaper was unsuccessful in reaching him for comment Saturday evening.