The discovery this month of six human bodies and dozens of sets of cremated remains stored illegally in a San Francisco Bay Area warehouse has led to a daunting task: to reunite them with their next of kin.
While five of the bodies were identified, the public's help is needed to establish the name of the sixth person and to reunite families with the 154 sets of cremated remains found at the facility, the Alameda County Sheriff's Office said.
Oceanview Cremations was storing the remains in a warehouse in Hayward, officials said. The crematorium's business license was suspended in March 2018 and its funeral establishment license was delinquent for about two months in 2022 before it was renewed. The Alameda County Coroner's Bureau said it learned only last month from the California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau that Oceanview had continued to operate in a new location, but that it was never inspected or approved by the state and was keeping remains in an "unauthorized" facility.
On March 1, the state funeral bureau and a funeral home contracted by Alameda County went to the warehouse, authorities said, leading to the identifications of five of the bodies.
Oceanview funeral director Robert Smith was unable to provide "viable information" to identify the sixth body, which is believed to be from Sonoma County, officials said. Relatives of the deceased told authorities that they initially tried to contact Smith about their loved ones but that when they never heard back, they assumed they had either been cremated or scattered at sea as requested.
All of the deceased were received in 2020 or 2021, while the cremated remains were received from 2013 to 2021 and originated from more than a dozen counties throughout Northern California, authorities said.
The funeral home that took possession of the cremated remains declined to comment Monday.
It was unclear why Oceanview's business license was suspended in 2018, but the California Department of Consumer Affairs and the state funeral bureau said in a filing last fall that it had received "numerous complaints" in 2021 and 2022 mostly from surviving family members who alleged that Oceanview "held the remains of their deceased loved ones for an inordinate amount of time before providing contracted cremation services."
The complaints also alleged that Oceanview failed to return phone calls and emails for weeks at at time and that the business' voice mailbox would be full or the phone number would be disconnected.
The funeral bureau is seeking revocation of Oceanview's funeral establishment license, and the state declined further comment Monday because the disciplinary matter is pending.
Efforts to reach Smith were unsuccessful.