New York State Funeral Directors Association

Deadly Crash into Funeral Home Draws Help from Neighbors 

It didn’t take long for staff at a Chautauqua County, NY funeral home to realize the impact they’ve had on their community after a pickup truck smashed into their facility in late December.

Funeral director Gary Kindberg, the firm’s president, was among three injured at the Lind Funeral Home in Jamestown, southwest of Buffalo, after a man passed away while behind the wheel and careened into the home on Dec. 29, 2014.

Bricks and stone, wood and glass from a large bay window were strewn about – along with pieces of the funeral home’s sign the truck destroyed on its way through the lawn.

It will be weeks, if not months, before the funeral home is completely repaired.

But what Kindberg described as “community equity” came to the rescue within minutes of the crash.Temporary Repairs Following Crash at Lind Funeral Home

Contractors, neighbors and officials descended on the scene after the accident, and the wall that took the brunt of the collision was sealed up so fast they were able to conduct services there later that same day.

“It’s very, very humbling,” said Kindberg, who got banged up when the truck crashed through the window. Nobody suffered any life-threatening injuries.

“Police, fire, city inspectors, contractors, electricians, heating guys. Everybody was here within 45 minutes. We’re a pretty small town, so everybody knows everybody. It was pretty amazing, to be honest with you,” Kindberg said.

Among those willing to pitch in was a local pastor - on the scene for the funeral – who offered the nearby church building for the service.

The church organist, a woman who was at the funeral to pay her respects, volunteered to add music to the service as contractors awaited the police investigation to end.

Skilled workers took to the task as soon as they could – and they rebuilt the wall within hours, stopping the cold, winter air from gushing into the funeral home.

“The police didn’t release the scene until 2:30 p.m. By 5 p.m., there was a new wall, insulation, and it was all closed in,” Kindberg said.

Calls from members of the tight-knit community flooded into the funeral home, he said.

“I get a little teary-eyed when I think of just how people kept running to help. Just the offers of help or care or concern were just overwhelming.”

People were asking what they could do and pastors were calling from all over the city to offer their churches, if needed, for funerals.

The day after the crash, a man from the local cemetery showed up with his dump truck to load up the bricks and stone and other debris and haul it away.

“I guess you don’t realize how engrained you are in the community, and how many people truly care. Not just about your business or the fact that you might have to help them at their time of need. When our need arose, we barely had to call anybody,” Kindberg said.

MAJOR DAMAGE

The Lind Funeral Home began operating in 1941 on South Main Street in Jamestown under the direction of Bernhard F. Lind, who moved operations to the present location on West Third Street in 1957.

A third generation of the Lind family, including Kindberg, continues the service begun by Bernhard Lind 74 years ago.

There have been several building projects since then – much to their fortune. Kindberg said the building’s construction - and a 10 inch-thick wall - helped shield the interior.

The building didn’t lose its integrity and no weight-bearing walls were destroyed.

Kindberg said the crash itself could’ve been disastrous had the pickup struck the building just 10 feet in another direction.

That’s where the funeral home’s business office staff - his two cousins - were working at the time of the crash.

“He hit the building at about 60 mph. I’m convinced it would’ve killed them,” he said.Photo courtesy Lind Funeral Home

Kindberg said there’s several other funeral directors working at the funeral home and they could handle the funeral director work. But the loss of the two office managers would’ve brought the operation to a standstill.

“We probably would’ve had to close up shop,” he said. He said the work of the office staff there is critical to keeping the business up and running, pointing to the old adage about speaking to the “man in charge or the woman who knows what’s going on.”

“Had they been taken out, I don’t know how our business could have continued,” Kindberg said.

By late January, Kindberg said the funeral home was in the process of gathering quotes for what will turn out to be a major reconstruction project.

He said the spirit of community was evident even from his local insurance agent.

“He’s been a great go-between for us and the adjusters. Our agent has been just wonderful helping us get through the minefield. It’s a pretty big claim,” Kindberg said.

Roughly 4 weeks after the accident, Kindberg said the whole situation was “still kind of surreal.”

But it left the longtime funeral director filled with the realization of what an important role the firm plays in the lives of his community.

“It was just a confirmation of how many lives we’ve touched over the course of many, many years,” Kindberg said.


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