Bodies in Goldsboro cemetery still displaced 2 years after Hurricane Matthew

GOLDSBORO, N.C. (WNCN) - There are areas of North Carolina still affected by a hurricane that hit two years ago. One of those places is Goldsboro's Elmwood Cemetery.

The cemetery is still dealing with bodies that were disinterred by the the Hurricane Matthew's flood waters.

The Neuse River exceeded record flood levels after Matthew devastated large parts of Goldsboro and Wayne County, as well as areas further east.

At the height of the flooding, water was so high in Elmwood Cemetery, only the tops of the 6-foot high front gate was showing.

Thirty-six surface vaults were affected when flood waters dislodged them, sending them floating all over the graveyard.


“Through a long process, we were able to identify 18 remains in their caskets and restored them to their original resting places,” said Goldsboro public works supervisor Rick Fletcher.

But, the bodies of 18 others remain unidentified because their caskets were unmarked.

Temporary markers show where the 18 used to be buried. Two years later, officials are hoping DNA testing of relatives of some of the 18 mystery bodies might help identify them so they can be returned to their rightful resting places.

“Seven family members have submitted DNA to date,” Fletcher said.

But, officials have had no contact with relatives of 11 other people whose caskets were dislodged.

They’re hoping more relatives come forward.

“This process of collecting DNA just started 30 to 45 days ago. It's taken this long to get to that point,” Fletcher said.

The mystery bodies have been temporarily buried in a special area of the cemetery reserved for future expansion. They were placed in new coffins after DNA samples were taken.

“We handled them as if they were our family members," Fletcher said.

Repairs to the cemetery and dealing with the disinterred bodies has cost almost $100,00. The city said that sum is being paid for by FEMA.

Because cemetery officials worry not everyone may be identified, they’re going to create a memorial space in the new section of the cemetery where the bodies are now located

That memorial area will also include a plaque containing the names of those who Mother Nature disturbed from their final resting places.

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