MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) – Urns containing human remains have been found on the beach in Myrtle Beach more frequently in the last three years.
Horry County Coroner Robert Edge said it is becoming more common for people to find urns washed up on the beach because it has become a popular resting place.
“They just think they are placing their loved ones where they think they would like to be the rest of eternity and I guess it’s a psychological thing,” Edge said. “They feel like they’re close to the ocean, they’ll be happy with their final resting place.”
Edge said the coroner’s office receives five to six urns a year that wash up on shore.
“We’ll have a high tide or a tide with a lot of undercurrents, and the sand moves around a lot and people can walk by or the police find them,” Edge said. “Then they call us and send them over here and we try to locate the owners as much as we can.”
Edge said sometimes family members can be located by using a tag that is supposed to be placed inside of the urn with the funeral home or family information but that is not always the case. Some urns are left with no tag or they are sealed shut.
Edge said if they can track down the funeral home where the urn came from, they send a picture of the urn to the funeral home hoping to get help locating the family. In some cases, families are shocked their loved one’s urn was discovered and are eager to re-claim them, but in other cases some families rather leave the ashes unclaimed.
Edge said they have been 98% successful with returning urns back to their families, but the remaining 2% currently sit in a closet next to several other unclaimed or unwanted ashes.
“You would be surprised. Over the years there have been times where people are living in an apartment or a house or you just moved out and either forgot about them or just left them on purpose,” Edge said.
Edge said they have been working for four years to locate the family of a blue and white urn that has been sitting unclaimed since 2018.
Back in 2018, this man’s wife was cremated and they lived in a beach house on the north end and when he moved, he did not take his wife with him, nor did he take the cat with him. He left both, and we haven’t been able to locate him,“ Edge said.
Edge said in some cases they may locate families and find out they want nothing to do with the remains.
“We got a man and woman who were married in the early years and they had children, and for some reason they got a divorce and the dad never had anything to do with the kids,” Edge said. “They still harbor those feelings and then when he dies, we call but they don’t want him.”
The coroner’s office currently has about 32 unclaimed and unwanted human remains in a storage closet.
“At some point we will do a mass burial,“ Edge said.
The coroner’s office has mass burials every few years when they run out of space. They put all the unclaimed human remains inside of one coffin, burying it at a local cemetery.
“We put up a marker and that’s their final resting place,” Edge said. “A few years ago we did a mass burial with 72 unclaimed remains.”
Officials said a permit from the US Environmental Protection Agency is required to bury any remains at sea, and ashes have to be scattered three miles away from shore.