25 Investigates: Undetected loaded gun goes off inside Boston cremation chamber

BOSTON — A loaded gun went off in a crematorium in Boston last week – after the firearm somehow went undetected by hospital and funeral home staff for two months, 25 Investigates has found.

No injuries were reported, according to a police report of the Friday, July 7, incident obtained by 25 Investigates.

Bodies are supported to be checked before cremation.

But on Friday, July 7, a funeral home employee heard eight “loud pop sounds” when he went to remove the ashes from a cremated body.

The employee found what appeared to be a  “…a firearm along with firearm assembly components, ammunition shell casings and bullet fragments,” according to the police report.

The body had been at a hospital morgue for two months before a funeral home transported it directly to a crematorium in Boston.

Somehow, the loaded gun managed to go undetected by hospital staff, funeral home workers, and the medical examiner’s office.

Buddy Phaneuf runs New Hampshire-based Phaneuf Funeral Homes & Crematorium.

He said bodies are typically fully clothed and in caskets or some type of box when they are cremated.

And he said his employees are required to perform multiple checks for any items on or around the deceased.

And in New Hampshire, the medical examiner’s office performs a separate inspection.

“They will generally check, you know, items of clothing to see if there’s anything that we may have missed,” Phaneuf said. “They will also be looking at the paperwork, looking at the death certificate, cause of death. And the state is signing off authorizing the cremation.”

The Massachusetts medical examiner’s office is required to sign off on all cremations in this state.

Families are charged $200 for that service.

We asked the medical examiner’s office how the gun incident happened.

A spokesperson said: “The OCME’s role in authorizing a cremation is to verify the decedent’s identity and visually confirm that their physical appearance is consistent with the assigned manner of death...”

And the office “is deeply troubled by the notion that the safety of our staff, as well as those working at the hospital, funeral home, and crematorium, was compromised by a firearm that went undetected at each of those settings.”

25 Investigates visited and left multiple messages for the director of St. Michael’s Cemetery and Crematorium – where the gun discharged.

He did not respond.

The police report didn’t provide details about the deceased person’s age, manner of death or where the gun came from.

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