Crime scene and death cleanup is far from a glamorous job, and it's often pretty thankless. Most folks don't want to have to think about the fact that there are people who have to go in after violent crimes or messy deaths and clean things up so the space, be it a home, office, or public venue, can be used again.
Reddit user boredmoody asked:
"Death clean-up crewers, what's the saddest/most disturbing case you've ever had to clean up after?"
*The following article contains discussion of suicide/self-harm, as well as sometimes graphic descriptions of crime scenes and of death.*
"I work for a railroad and after a collison usually we bring in a service to clean up the mess. However during the repairs it's not uncommon to find bits of folk. Usually it's like a knuckle or something small but the company leaves a bucket that we put it in and they will dispose of it later. One of my welders found a wedding ring, that went in a special envelope and was given to the family promptly. Another time they found a shoe under a car that was several cars back. Either way stay away from the tracks the trains cannot turn out of the way."
"I responded to a single vehicle involved with a moose. The caller was the driver and she had her young (6ish) son in the back. They were both okay but afraid and trapped in the car as the moose was lodged into the windshield."
"We arrived and when we did the moose woke up and kicked the mother to death trying to get itself dislodged. The boy had to watch the whole thing. We were removing him from the back seat and he said "My mommy's dead isn't she". I'm a volunteer so I'm not used to dealing with things like that. It was heartbreaking."
"I've been doing this kind of work for about 6 months and a month or two ago we did a job where a 12 year old girl shot herself with a .357 while in her parents bathroom. There were multiple skull fragments and mattes of hair of which, as a relatively new worker in this field, I had not become accustomed to. No note, entire family was home at the time. We got there the next day to clean up and we worked 14 hours straight with the mother one room away crying like a banshee. It really sticks with you."
"I'm not a professional by any means. But when you work at a large apartment complex, you see a lot of people. Because police officers and actual professionals do not have keys to individual apartments, I will typically accompany them into the apartment for wellness checks. So far in my 3 years at this property we have found 3 deceased. The first was a suicide of a middle age man that just decided to end it all. Going back to the office where his mother was waiting and seeing her fall to the ground in tears will never leave my mind."
"The other two were older folk who died of natural causes. But both of them sat for 2-4 days before being found. A lot of people don't realize how quickly we start to decompose after our heart stops pumping."
"I have a lot of respect for the people that deal with these things on a day to day basis. The few experiences I had put me in a pretty huge funk for quite a while."
Husband and Wife
"Murder/Suicide. Husband shot wife in the head while sleeping and then himself. Usually I just sort of zone out while doing them and not thinking about it too much, but cleaning the blood splatter off on of their photo frames of them and the kids with the caption "World's Greatest Dad" was pretty sad."
"Also did a clean up at a homeless shelter where the woman living there had drank herself to death, someone at the front desk said their throat eroded from all the alcohol and they threw up blood everywhere. Midway through the cleaning their sister showed up distraught and started stomping through all the blood pools on the floor digging through everything looking for a note or anything sentimental left behind. Only found empty Svedka bottles and clothing though. Also very sad."
"Not me, but my best friend. She is the 7th(?) generation of her family's owned and operated funeral home, and for a while she was doing removals. By the way, what a crazy job. Your "shift" is just to be on-call during a period of time, waiting to go get a dead body."
"She did it for several years before deciding it was too back-breaking, the schedule sucked, and the whole dead body thing. She told me the worst one she did, that it was the only one that the smell made her puke. The majority of her pick-ups were old people out in the country who were hermits or had little family."
"This one in particular, as she stepped out of her car she could smell it, and it got worse as she got closer to the house. It was hard to see through the windows because they were curtained with flies. They opened the door and were basically smacked in the face with flies and death, so they let it stand open for a while before entering. I think the body had been there several weeks."
"The story was something like, an old man lived there and had basically been estranged from his family. His only child lived in LA or something and it wasn't rare to not speak for several months at a time. Very sad and incredibly unfortunate, but this happens more than we know."
"Military here. I work was working on the fight deck of a carrier and we had a guy get hit by some propellers. Killed instantly. They gathered what they could, all the scattered chunks of flesh and bone from him and put it in a bag then 30 seconds later rolled up with the power boss ( pressure washer) and sprayed was left of him into the sea. we went right back to launching and catching jets less then 5 mins after clean up wash finished. I understand why we did it but still a little harsh to see and process."
"Not cleanup per se, but was a mortician who supervised the removal and preparation side of our funeral home. Mid-summer in Florida arrived at a call in middle class neighborhood. Cops were standing outside, middle-aged man and young woman. Both immediately started apologizing for having to call us. Advised us to don whatever gear we had in preparation."
"House was a little dilapidated, yard unkempt. Nothing we hadn't seen before, but law enforcement kept saying how sorry they were about what we were going in to."
"Deceased male, last seen six weeks prior. Hoarder. Severe hoarder. Five gallon buckets of bodily fluids lining the hallway we had to go down to get to the master bedroom. Halfway down the hall my eyes start watering despite the full-face respirator I was wearing."
"Man died in his bed at least six weeks prior if not earlier. Beside his bed, between it and the wall, a four-foot high pile of napkins covered in fecal matter. He was in his bed in a fetal position, had obviously not left the bed in months. There was nothing left of him but goo and bones. He was just forgotten. Neighbors told us he had children, or at least said he did. He died alone, suffocated by his own waste."
"The funeral home I worked for had the contract with the county to bury indigents, so after picking him up and taking him to the morgue, we saw him again when no one claimed him."
"Not a clean up crew, but when I worked for a tire store we had a guy die on our pad."
"Lots of mistakes were made, and it 100% should have been avoided."
"He never should have started with until the engine was off."
"The other guy working with him should never have waved a car that was stopped and parked, break on, to move forward without checking surroundings."
"First thing both guys should have done once the truck was in position is chock the tires and get the keys."
"And absolutely under no circumstances should anyone ever get between the axles of a semi."
"But that's all what happened. By the time he realized the truck was moving it was too late. He tried to scoot backwards and get out, but the tire ran over his elbow and then pulled him forward just enough to have his head and shoulders get run over too. His head very literally exploded."
"I got there about 30 seconds later and saw carnage. After the clean up crew came, I went to work scrubbing stains off the pad."
"I found his glasses with a bit of brain stuck to them, and that's when I had to call my day quits."
"Dude was a single dad, working to keep his 3 kids fed and sheltered. A few bad decisions and they no longer had parents. It was a really REALLY rough day."
"I cleaned up a scene where an old man died in a highrise. He pulled his bed to the door of his bathroom and in the 6 feet from the toilet to the bed was a hell I couldn't imagine. He died alone and his neighbors called the police when they smelled that he was dead. I was mad that they had a paper on his floor for each of the residents to sign weekly and he hadn't signed it for 2 weeks when I checked it."
This must be an incredibly stressful line of work!
Do you have any experiences to share? Let us know in the comments below.
If you or someone you know is struggling, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
To find help outside the United States, the International Association for Suicide Prevention has resources available at https://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/