05/29/2015 05:00 EDT | Updated 05/28/2016 05:59 EDT

Dartmouth woman shocked by donated bodies transported in U-Haul

A Dartmouth, N.S., woman and her husband were driving by a cemetery when he noticed two people taking bodies out of a U-Haul truck.

What the couple discovered "absolutely mortified" her.

Lisa Cochrane said her husband, Doug, "happened to glance over his shoulder and said, 'Is that a U-Haul truck at the crematorium? … I think they're taking bodies out of that U-Haul truck.'"

The two drove around the block near Mount Hermon cemetery, and spoke to the people with the vehicle. It turned out they were working for Dalhousie and bringing the remains of six people who had donated their bodies to science for cremation.

The remains were transported in simple wooden boxes — what the university calls cremation caskets — from New Brunswick, where they had been used for medical training.

"I was absolutely mortified," Cochrane said. "I couldn't imagine that somebody could end up being taken out of a U-Haul, $19.95 a day written on the side big and bold. I thought there had to be something terribly wrong."

But there wasn't.

Business as usual

Dalhousie University's co-ordinator of anatomical laboratories, Rob Sandeski, says the way it transports donated remains is done respectfully.

"It's the level of respect from the time the first phone call is made to our program until they get to the crematorium and memorial service — that level of respect maintains at the highest regards the whole way through," said Sandeski, a licensed funeral director responsible for arranging and transporting remains. "The mode of transportation for the human remains matters very little."

He said the university does not have its own vehicle for transporting remains, so he rents vehicles or uses a professional firm to do the work. 

"Regardless of what is on the outside of the vehicle, their loved ones are being cared for by a licensed funeral director and caring staff," he said.

University rep insists regulations were followed

Cochrane was also worried about the remains being transported in a non-refrigerated vehicle from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia.

"It was a very hot day, 28 degrees, 30 degrees in some areas, and they have stacks of boxes containing remains in the back of a U-Haul truck," she said. "Will the truck be sanitized? Who will use it next?"

Sandeski said the remains were embalmed and he followed all regulations. He also had told U-Haul why he was renting the vehicle.

Cochrane, however, still feels using a U-Haul for such a purpose is wrong.

"The sheer fact that they were stacked in the back of a U-Haul is inappropriate, unacceptable and disrespectful," she said, and is urging Dalhousie to stop using U-Hauls.