- Associated Press - Thursday, May 19, 2016

NOME, Alaska (AP) - Nome officials say things are under control at the city morgue after police sent an email to community members requesting assistance in identifying bodies.

The message sent Tuesday said there were four caskets being held at the morgue “pending action by the next of kin.”

Police Chief John Papasodora told KTUU-TV (https://bit.ly/1TkXzRN) the confusion was not a first for the city and that it stemmed from an informal process where people can ask for a key to the morgue and drop off caskets containing their loved ones.

“We have had caskets that we’ve had to do some research on to find out who they are,” Papasodora said.

However, Christine Schultz, director of social services with Norton Sound Health Corp., said there is a “functional system” in place at the morgue for labeling caskets. She said she showed the caskets with the proper identification markers to City Clerk Bryant Hammond Wednesday.

“There might have been one that didn’t have a tag,” Schultz said.

Hammond apologized to residents in an email Wednesday.

“The city of Nome and the volunteers that assist in prepping our loved ones for their final journey know exactly who is in the morgue and are working with each of the families to make burial preparations,” Hammond said.

Nome Mayor Richard Beneville said he wasn’t aware of the incident until he received a call from someone who was upset over the email from police. He said officials are working to improve the situation and that a committee was recently formed to address the issues as well as sort out unmarked graves at the Nome cemetery.

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Information from: KTUU-TV, https://www.ktuu.com

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