Mystery urn of ashes drifts to shore on Florida beach

Miami HeraldJune 12, 2013 

NORTH MIAMI BEACH -- The ashes of someone’s loved one — found floating in the Intracoastal Waterway — are now in a Hollywood crematorium, waiting to be claimed.

The brass urn of ashes was found in the Intracoastal a week ago and was later turned in to Geronimo Mena Jr. of Guiding Light Cremations in Hollywood.

Mena said that he thinks someone may have attempted a burial at sea, but the urn did not sink because it was likely full of air, floating to the surface near the 163rd Street Bridge in North Miami Beach. Someone on a wave runner found the urn last week.

“I am sure the family did that with the best of intentions but their plan backfired,” said Mena, who did not handle the original cremation, but got involved as a goodwill gesture after hearing about it. He is certain the ashes are human remains because of the color, texture and presence of bone particles.

Locating relatives would be easy if the urn had a name on it, Mena said. Instead, the ashes inside the urn had a string tied around a plastic bag, not the customary metal tag identifying the person and the crematorium.

In his two decades of incinerating the dead, Mena said that this is the second time he has been in charge of someone’s lost ashes.

“Ten years ago, police handed me an urn that had been forgotten in the trunk of a rental car,” he said.

The ashes were properly tagged and Mena was able to contact the driver, who happened to be the wife of the deceased.

“The woman thanked me and could take the urn back home.”

In this case, if nobody claims the remains after 120 days, Mena said he will scatter them himself, as required by law.

It is forbidden to scatter cremated ashes in the Intracoastal.

Burial at sea of human remains should take place at least three nautical miles from land, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

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