HAYWARD, Calif. (AP) — San Francisco Bay Area officials were working Tuesday to identify the families of 160 people whose remains were found in a warehouse used by a cremation business whose license was suspended.
Six bodies and the ash remains of 154 other people were found earlier this month at a warehouse in Hayward after the California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau received several complaints from customers saying Oceanview Cremations had stopped responding to them, Alameda County Sheriff Lt. Tya Modeste said.
Oceanview Cremations had a corporate license that was suspended in 2018 and an individual license under the same name that was suspended last year and was not supposed to be operating or keeping remains in a warehouse, Modeste said.
“Many of the families say that they paid to have their loved one’s ashes dispersed at sea, and obviously that didn’t happen,” she said.
Other families complained Oceanview Cremations, which is based in Hayward, a city 30 miles (48 kilometers) southeast of San Francisco, did not return their messages when seeking to pick up their loved one’s remains.
“One family said they called over 100 times and they never got a call back,” Modeste said.
Modeste said the remains date back to 2013 and that Oceanview Cremations received them from families in 15 Northern California counties but that the business did a poor job keeping records and that no contracts were found.
She said the business owner, Robert Smith, was not cooperating with officials. A telephone number listed for the company was disconnected, and Smith couldn’t be reached for comment.
The Alameda County Coroner’s Bureau has identified five of the bodies and has a tentative identification of the other one, Modeste said. The ash remains have tags with names and the county where the person died, but no other information or contact information for next of kin, she said.
Officials now have to check different databases to find out their relatives. So far, 11 families of the deceased have been contacted, she said.
Anyone who used Oceanview Cremations between 2013 and 2022 to arrange their loved one’s cremation and who may have questions about what happened to those remains should contact Alameda County officials.