BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - When fire ripped through the United Memorial Funeral home on New Year's day in 2011, it shocked the neighborhood. A discovery more than two years later would again stun residents.
Elizabeth Jacobs said back then, "We were watching all the flames shooting out of the top, and then we were watching them knock down the sides of the walls with the hoses in the top level."
About a year before the fire, Katherine White had tried to obtain the cremains of her late father, Benny Goodman, whose funeral and cremation had been arranged through United Memorial. White's family owed money for the arrangements, and she claims the cremains were not released for that reason by the funeral home building owner, Brian Drake.
"I talked to him after my father and he told me about the bill, and so forth, he told me about the bill, yes," White said.
But Drake admittedly denied that was the reason. And White said after the fire, nobody could even tell her if her father's remains were still in the funeral home.
Drake said, "I didn't even think to even shudder at the fact that there would be any type of remains of anyone, Mrs. White's or anyone else's in the building."
The former funeral director, Rinaldo Moss, has moved to Georgia and never even had contact with White after the funeral.
"Even after the fire I had no contact, no telephone conversations with her or direct contact with her," Moss said.
On Saturday, inside the burned out shell of the funeral home, White's boyfriend found her father's remains.
Her boyfriend had been accompanied by the man hired to demolish the building. In the process, the remains of more than 30 others were discovered.
White is relieved, but feels terrible for others who may be in her situation.
"Rest of the people who are there should be returned to their families, and something should be done so this can't happen again," White said.
The State Health Department has been notified and is working on a response. There is a Bureau of Funeral Directing that will address this.
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