The remains of 1,430 unclaimed LA residents were buried Wednesday in a mass grave at the LA County Crematory and Cemetery in Boyle Heights.
"In a nutshell, they're people who are either indigent or simply unclaimed," said Craig Harvey, operations consultant at the LA County Coroner's Office. "They could have outlived their family, they could have family members that simply aren't interested in taking responsibility for them, they could have family members that can't afford to take responsibility for them, so they're here for a variety of reasons."
Prior to the burial, the LA Times posted a database of the unclaimed remains so that family would have the opportunity to step forward and claim them.
According to the LA County Office of Decedent Affairs, it costs $352 to claim ashes, a price which may account for the hundreds of unclaimed remains.
"The county does charge a nominal fee to claim the ashes, and unfortunately, that's beyond some people's means," said John Kades, captain of the coroner's operations division.
During a ceremony with hundreds in attendance, prayers and blessings from several religious denominations were directed toward the dead.
Father Chris Ponnet, director of spiritual care at LA County + USC Medical Center, led an interfaith prayer at the start of the ceremony. "We're not a part of a society that just throws them away," he said. "They hold them with the hope that people will claim them, and after those years, we don't just throw them away, but place them in a sacred space."
LA County has been conducting these mass burials since 1896. Kades said it is a sign of respect for those who have passed.
"I think any person has an expectation in life that when they pass on there's going to be some memorial: an event, something significant to note their passing. It's basic human nature that we all have within ourselves to do that for our fellow man. Even if they were unknown, had no family, I think there's a basic need. We all have to make note of that, and pay some form of respect to those people."