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Cemetery Caretakers Urge Caution After Tragic Accident

SCRANTON — Cemetery caretakers in our area are urging caution after Monday’s tragedy when a headstone toppled onto a man, killing him. The man was p...

SCRANTON -- Cemetery caretakers in our area are urging caution after Monday's tragedy when a headstone toppled onto a man, killing him.

The man was placing Easter decorations at the grave of a relative at St. Joseph's Cemetery in Throop when he died.

Caretakers believe the weather made the ground underneath the headstone unstable.

Those we talked to say what happened Monday in Throop was a tragic accident, an accident that some say can happen more often than you think.

"It could happen. It could happen in this cemetery. It could happen in any other cemetery. We hope it never does."

Warren Watkins, the president of the Clarks Green Cemetery Association says in light of Monday's accident in Throop, he's keeping a closer eye on the headstones.

"The frost level here in this cemetery is about two feet down and now the ground is starting to get loose a little bit. I noticed the other day a couple of stones are starting to tip a little bit," Watkins said.

Watkins says some people stop at the cemetery often, but in most cases, people aren't looking at the headstones for problems.

"They come and put flowers on. That's the intent. They come and decorate the grave. I don't think they look at the stone that much. I wish they would."

We found one cemetery in Lackawanna County where there are several headstones loose and toppled over.

The owner of a monument shop in Dupont tells Newswatch 16, headstones can move over several decades. It's up to the family members to check on these regularly.

"If family members and cemeteries take notice of a monument that is tipping and let the appropriate people know, it could be fixed. Something like this doesn't have to happen," said Greg Timonte, the owner of the Dupont Monument Shop.

He says his company pours concrete foundation 30 to 36 inches deep below the frost line.

"In this area should be what's called setting compound," he explained.

Timonte says harsh winters over the years can dry out the compound causing the stone to get loose. He says there's a way to check that.

"A lot of times, if you take a pocket knife or a putty knife, something like that and just push on it to see if it moves, to see if it goes in. Then you have a problem."

If you notice a problem with a headstone, experts say don't try to fix it yourself. Have a professional come and check it out.

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