Ike cleanup crews find casket with body

March 3, 2009 5:03:02 PM PST
Damage from Hurricane Ike is still being discovered. Just this past Saturday, a casket with a body inside was found in the middle of a field. The casket was apparently unearthed, and washed away from the Port Bolivar community cemetery. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

When Theresa Strimple watched Eyewitness News, she had no idea what actually happened to her cousin's grave. After Hurricane Ike hit, she says cemetery officials warned her that her cousin's coffin had been damaged, but she didn't know just how badly.

"Not knowing it was out there," Strimple said. "We didn't think any graves had come up."

On Saturday, a crew clearing debris along State Highway 87 found the casket about a quarter of a mile from the cemetery. The medical examiner, upon opening the coffin, found inside a hospital bracelet. From that, they identified the man as Ernest H. Heiman, who died in 1977.

"To think that, even if he's in a box, he still was washed up," Strimple said.

Strimple says this isn't the first time she's had problems at the gravesite. She claims a storm a few years ago almost produced a similar outcome.

"One time before his vault leaked," she recalled. "It had to be pumped."

Cemetery officials say they suspected the casket was relocated in the storm, but they weren't 100 percent sure. They alerted authorities in Chambers County to be on the lookout, but not in Galveston County.

For Strimple, she's glad to know her cousin's coffin has been found. Now she's eager to put him back where he belongs.

She said, "They can put it back and he can rest in peace."

The medical examiner's office says they'll wait for instructions from the family before deciding what to do next. The family says they're hoping to rebury Heiman's remains as soon as possible.

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