PLAINS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Frustration, heartbreak and in some cases downright anger. The emotions dozens of families are expressing because the final resting place of their loved ones is literally crumbling.
The I-team first reported on the deplorable conditions at a Luzerne County cemetery and mausoleum six years ago and since then, conditions have only gotten worse.
All families have to deal with the pain of loss at one time or another but dozens of families in our area say their pain is magnified because they now have to come to the Luzerne County courthouse to get a court order to remove the remains of their loved ones from their final resting place.
Denise Kumor’s parents were entombed at the mausoleum at the Good Shepherd Memorial Park Cemetary in the 1990s and that mausoleum is crumbling.
“This is horrible…I have a hard time even coming here to visit my parents because it makes me physically ill. It’s heartbreak,” explained Kumor “This is where they wanted to be they came here and picked this all out for themselves. You know I buried them once …I have to bury them again. It just doesn’t seem fair.”
Eyewitness News heard that from other families over the past five years the problems here have been ongoing for years.
The I-team spoke with one of the owners back in 2006. When people started expressing concerns about the deteriorating conditions of the cemetery.
“We did not purchase the business part of it. We do not intend to continue this place as a cemetery,” said Viktoria Evstafieva, the owner of the cemetery.
Evstafieva and her business partner sued Luzerne County in 2017 claiming when they bought the property at a tax sale. They did not know it was a cemetery, but the courts ruled they should have known they were purchasing a cemetery.
The bottom line, the conditions here have been getting worse. Chris Yanaitis is a funeral director who has been helping families, which includes getting a court order allowing them to move their loved one’s remains.
“Every time we do remove somebody from the crypts we are finding ourselves being struck from more things coming down from the ceilings and the caskets are generally in deplorable conditions,” stated Yanaitis.
Plains Township officials are providing safety guidance during the removal process.
“The township is certainly concerned for the families and those people who have people who have loved ones to see them go and have the remains interred somewhere else would be appropriate,” said Stephen Menn, the Plains Township Solicitor.
Families say they just want peace.
“At least contact us..come p with a plan. We don’t want to sue you we just want your help,” said Kumor.
It costs anywhere between $5,000 to $10.000 to remove remains from a cemetery. Several families have considered filing lawsuits against the owners to force them to take action.
Eyewitness News has been trying to contact the owners for comment today. We are told they live in Florida. So far our efforts have been unsuccessful. It would appear that for now, families are on their own.