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Friday, 29 August 2014

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Funerals delay at Carlisle crematorium

Grieving relatives are facing delays because cremations in Carlisle are to be halted for almost a week.

Carlisle Crematorium photo
Carlisle Crematorium

Carlisle City Council has written to funeral directors confirming the two cremators at the city’s Dalston Road Crematorium will be switched off after Wednesday afternoon for “essential repairs”.

They will be not be switched back on again until the afternoon of February 26.

Officials say work is necessary on safety grounds because the boiler, which powers both cremators, has developed a leak. They insist that the problem is being tackled in a way thatcauses the least possible distress.

Relatives also have the option of arranging for loved ones to be cremated at alternative crematoriums in Distington in west Cumbria, or at Dumfries or Newcastle.

Most are choosing to wait until cremations are available again in Carlisle, say local funeral directors. But this has meant that more bodies than usual are having to be stored.

Graeme Kennedy, of Kennedy & Ferguson Funeral Directors in Blackwell Road, Currock, said that as many as 30 cremations may have been delayed across Carlisle.

“The obvious thing to come out of this is the delay,” he said. “Rather than having a funeral later this week, or at the beginning of next week, we’re looking at the latter part of next week or the following week.

“Most people don’t want to have funerals in Dumfries, Newcastle, or Distington because it would be a long way.

“We’ve had to delay four cremations. We are okay for storing bodies but there will be slightly more pressure on the hospital in Carlisle.

“I’m told that the boiler at the crematorium, which feeds both cremators, has been leaking and has to be replaced.

“The problem goes back to the original design and them having only one boiler to cover the two cremators.

“If there had been a boiler for each cremator, we wouldn’t have this problem.”

Mr Kennedy said it would take a few weeks for local funeral directors to catch up with cremations.

Undertaker Bruce Harris, of George Hudson & Sons, in Wigton Road, said: “You’d think that maintenance, if kept up to date, would stop this happening. Why did they have to do it at this time of year? It’s a very busy time of year.”

Dawn Evans, from Walker’s Funeral Directors in Wigton Road, Carlisle, has dealt with five delayed funerals because of the problem.

She said: “It’s a difficult situation for families and for funeral directors, but we’re working to overcome it. Relatives are being very stoic.”

A Carlisle City Council spokeswoman said the boiler fault was identified during routine maintenance.

Though still operating, it is leaking and there is a risk that it could fail if no action is taken – leaving the crematorium unable to function.

She said: “Having been offered a slot for the repairs by a specialist engineer, we felt the best option was to proceed quickly with the repair and replace the faulty boiler. Having consulted with all local funeral directors, they have been able to work round the closure period.

“The engineers will be working from Thursday until early next week, including the weekend, in order to minimise the disruption to services.

“Scheduling in the repair works will prevent any cremations being cancelled. If not, there was a risk that the boiler would break down.

“This could have resulted in services being cancelled at short notice and would have caused unnecessary distress to bereaved families and friends.”

A spokeswoman for North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust said managers were working with funeral directors whose premises have the facilities to ensure there is no problem with storing bodies during the week when the cremators are off.

The Cumberland Infirmary’s mortuary has room for 43 bodies, and this is expected to be sufficient for the period involved.

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