Shock, concern after headstones, burial plots in Okanagan graveyard driven over by excavation crew

A photo showing muddy machinery tracks over headstones and burial plots at a graveyard in Enderby, B.C.
A photo showing muddy machinery tracks over headstones and burial plots at a graveyard in Enderby, B.C. Submitted

Some flat headstones and burial plots in a B.C. graveyard that were driven over by an excavation crew has resulted in a strong reaction from the North Okanagan community of Enderby.

A photo from social media shows muddy tracks between two rows of the flat grave markers, with some headstones showing signs of being moved.

In response to the photo, many comments called upon the city to fix the situation at Cliffside Cemetery.

“How disrespectful,” said one post, with another adding “Hope this is fixed and not at the family of the deceased expense. Very disrespectful.”

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The City of Enderby says the incident occurred when another site was being prepared for a burial.

The ground, says the city, is extremely soft and was also snow-covered. Further, it says heavy equipment is needed to dig burial plots due to quite rocky soil.

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“The crew is extremely careful to be respectful in the cemetery,” Enderby chief administrative officer Tate Bengtson said in the social media post.

“Heavy equipment access is required to the middle of a large block of plots for an excavation. Unfortunately, this area cannot be reached by the cemetery’s access roads, so a pathway had to be cleared through the heavy snow to enable equipment to reach the site.

“The ground is extremely soft and saturated, which causes ruts while the snow is being cleared. As the work gets completed in the next day, the ground will be leveled, then restored later in the spring.”

A neglected prison graveyard has been given a makeover by the city of New Westminster
A neglected prison graveyard has been given a makeover by the city of New Westminster

On Tuesday, the city issued a press release regarding the incident.

“The city apologizes for any ground disturbance that has occurred,” said the city.

“The city cares about maintaining the cemetery as a respectful resting place for loved ones. Ground disturbance is avoided as much as possible in the cemetery. Efforts are made to minimize the impact of equipment necessary for cemetery operations.

“Unfortunately, ground disturbance may occur, particularly when soil is saturated with moisture and becomes very soft.  As happened recently, the equipment required for a burial did impact the ground. Both the city and its equipment operators regret deeply when this happens.”

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The city said following any ground disturbance, restoration work occurs and there is a review to ensure that no further damage inadvertently occurred.

“If there was damage, it is restored by the city. The city is committed to reviewing its practices to identify any improvements that may further reduce ground disturbance or damage.”

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A former Enderby resident now living in Calgary says her parents are buried side-by-side in the cemetery and is wondering if their graves were impacted.

And Sarah Hamilton says this isn’t the first time she’s had concerns with the graveyard.

She says her father purchased side-by-side burial plots, and, after his wife died, he passed in 2008.

“My sisters and I went up to put fresh flowers on mom’s grave because [dad’s] funeral was the next day,” Hamilton told Global News.

“And when we got there, there was a gentleman already buried in my dad’s plot. I was pretty upset, so I phoned city hall and they had to take that gentleman off that plot and put him in a plot that was already prepared for him further in the graveyard so that my dad could be buried beside my mom.”

What is grave sharing?
What is grave sharing?

Because of that, Hamilton says she’s quite concerned about what just happened.

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“I don’t know what part of the graveyard where that happened,” said Hamilton. “It may not even be my parents.

“But the thing is, somebody’s loved ones are in there, and that should have never happened. I don’t understand why it happened.”