Lancaster is home to about 160,000 people and is situated on the very edge of Los Angeles County. Lancaster is home to the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center as well as the county’s first and only state prison, Lancaster State Prison, which was opened at the end of the 20th century.
A lovely community of growing families and retired folks, as is the case with any city, tragedy does strike from time to time. Some such tragedies involve the loss of life, including people who die alone in what technically is known as unintended deaths. Unintended deaths are those that occur when a person has no one else around and when the death itself is not discovered for what can prove to be a significant period of time. In cases of unintended death, it is not uncommon for the body of deceased individuals to go undiscovered for multiple days, weeks, and even months.
One such situation in Lancaster involved a widower named Harry, a man who had called Lancaster home most of his adult life but nevertheless died alone. Harry lived in a tidy house in the center of the city. He was a man who took great pride in tending to his yard.
What Was Not Known: The Death of Harry
When working in his yard, Harry would politely wave to neighbors and even chat with them a bit. While he was friendly, he didn’t develop friendships with those who lived around him in Lancaster. In reality, in this day and age, a good many people do not develop close connections with their neighbors.
On a rather warm Saturday morning Harry was at work weeding a flowerbed on his front lawn. He spent a couple of hours, working in a fairly strenuous manner. Late morning, Harry retreated into his home. What was not known at the time was that within a few minutes of finishing his gardening, Harry suffered a fatal heart attack in the privacy of his home. No one knew he died.
The Aftermath of the Unattended Death of Harry
Harry’s wife had died about 10 years before his own death. He and his wife had one daughter, who while raised in Lancaster lived in Philadelphia at the time of Harry’s death. She did make it back to Lancaster once or twice a year to visit her father. Unlike younger people, Harry was not a user of digital media and relied on the telephone to stay in touch with his child.
No one in the neighborhood realized anything was amiss with Harry in the direct aftermath of his death. In fact, it was Harry’s daughter who first realized something seemed out of the ordinary with her father. She attempted to reach Harry by phone three days after his unattended death. She thought nothing of not reaching him on that day. After a few more days, Harry’s daughter reached out to a couple of people in Lancaster to inquire if they had heard from her father. Receiving no information, she contacted the Lancaster Sheriff’s Substation to undertake what is known as a welfare check on her father. Welfare checks in Lancaster are undertaken through the local Sheriff’s center:
501 West Lancaster Boulevard
Lancaster, California 93534
In visiting the home, the officers from Lancaster Station discovered the remains of Harry. At this juncture, a formal investigation began into the unattended death of Harry. This included the LA Coroner as well.
Dealing With Unattended Death From Afar
One of the challenges of dealing with an unattended death is the need for biohazard cleanup up. Unattended death means that the human decomposition process carries forth unabated. As a result, dangerous pathogens become an issue. These include bloodborne and airborne pathogens that present a danger at the scene.
Although Lancaster law enforcement and the Coroner undertake an investigation of the scene, these officials do nothing in the way of biohazard cleanup at the scene. This becomes the task of the next of kin. In the case of Harry, this fell on the shoulders of his daughter, who lived on the other side of the country.
Harry’s daughter called upon a professional, local biohazard cleanup service to address the unattended death of her father. When dealing with a biohazard cleanup like that associated with an unattended death, a four-step process occurs:
The ultimate goal of residential biohazard cleanup is to restore the property to a livable condition. In the case of Harry, the ultimate objective of his daughter was to get the house restored to livability so that it could be put on the market for sale as part of dealing with her father’s estate.
Photo Courtesy of Jerry