Protecting Vaults

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There's no answer yet to a mystery in Monroe County, Ohio. The mystery is the origin of a cemetery vault which washed up along the Ohio River during the recent floods.

The mystery vault was basic concrete construction. While burial vaults can be more elaborate, they also can be a lot less.

"There is no state law that says you have use an out-of-burial container," says Stephen Leavitt, co-owner of Leavitt Funeral Homes in Parkersburg. "It is a regulation set by the cemetery. If they want an out-of-burial container, you have to use the minimum, which is a non-sealing concrete grave liner."

One thing that is required is an identification, either on the vault or inside it. The vault that washed up near the Ohio River is believed to have had a plastic tube contained within it containing the ID of the deceased. An outside ID might not last.

"A lot of cemeteries have their own vaults," Leavitt says, "and some may attach names to them, and some may not.

Funeral homes usually remain with the vault until it is buried, but the ultimate responsibility for the gravesite rests with cemetery personnel. It's possible, but not yet known, that the vault discovered in Fly, Ohio came from a country cemetery located near a river or other body of water.

Having burial vaults dislodged by flooding is nothing new. It happened a lot during flooding along the Mississippi River during the 1990s.