Jun. 16—LEWISTON — After discovering the remains of 11 people sitting unrefrigerated at Affordable Cremation Solutions last week, state regulators filed an order Monday suspending both its operations and the funeral license of its owner.
An investigator who visited the Main Street establishment Thursday found an "odor of decomposition" in the upstairs office and got a headache as he waited to enter a room downstairs where the remains turned up.
Earlier in the week, the investigator saw "reddish brown fluid on the floor" that appeared "to flow into the drain."
At least eight bodies had sat there since mid-May, the investigator said, and one "was too large to fit in a body bag and was accordingly in an unsealed box."
Regulators deemed the situation so hazardous that they took quick action to shut down the business.
"The health and physical safety of the public are in immediate jeopardy" because the owner, Kenneth Kincer, has failed to follow state rules, according to the order issued by Chad Poitras, chairman of the Board of Funeral Services.
The suspension is for 30 days, pending a formal hearing before the panel. One is scheduled July 13.
A person answering the phone at Affordable Cremation on Wednesday said it would have no comment. He said Kincer was sick and could not talk.
During the suspension, Kincer "may not practice any aspect of funeral service, including without limitation accepting new deceased people's human remains, forwarding any deceased people's human remains to a crematorium, holding any funeral service or any other activity of a funeral practitioner."
When the board began looking at the business in April after hearing complaints that people could not retrieve bodies, Kincer told the board in April that he's been ill.
At about the same time, he told the Sun Journal he could not comment and referred questions to his attorney, who declined to comment in April as well. The lawyer, John Clifford of Lisbon, could not be reached Wednesday.
Kincer added at the time, though, "I don't think this is a big deal. We've been overrun with work."
A state investigator first visited the business on April 8, but found it locked with nobody there. A week later, though, Kincer was there.
At the time, the investigator found five uncremated remains in unrefrigerated storage, but there was "no odor of decay." Kincer said he'd been sick and remained unwell.
Two people complained to state regulators that they couldn't retrieve remains.
Noting that "during the time of the death of a loved one, individuals are experiencing grief, stress and loss, making them part of a vulnerable population," the state sent a letter to ACS and Kincer asking for information and to designate an alternative licensee to handle the situation. It got no response.
On June 8, the board's investigator made a follow-up visit and found three bodies that had been there since April and at least five more that had been sitting there since mid-May.
"The odor of decomposition was very strong," but confined to the lower level of the building, the order said.
It added that people "have expressed distress at the inability to contact a responsible licensee."
"The mental health of members of the public who have the human remains of loved ones at ACS is in jeopardy in connection with the inability to gain access" to the bodies, the order said, "especially to the extent that the condition of non-refrigeration and physical decay becomes known to such members of the public."
"For the family of the person who is not in a sealed container," it said, "additional distress will be incurred if the condition of that individual becomes known."
After another visit on June 10, in the middle of a heat wave, the investigator found 11 bodies and a strong odor. The order mentioned that some family members "were very upset" about the situation.
In addition, the order said the state Office of Vital Statistics had received two complete and one incomplete death certificates from the company between April 27 and June 8.
"There were significantly fewer certificates than decedents' human remains," it said.
After reviewing the preliminary findings, the board determined they met the standards for misconduct for violating multiple laws and regulations, from failing to secure remains for families to storing bodies in unrefrigerated space.