Family says deceased loved one gets bill for own body removal

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Update: An apology has been issued.

MACKINAW CITY, Mich. — A family from Northern Michigan is expressing their outrage and disbelief after saying their deceased loved one received a bill for his own body removal.

Rebecca Beck posted a picture of the bill to Facebook on Saturday. The bill is addressed to Beck’s step-father, Carl Little, who died in a car crash on I-75 just south of the Mackinac Bridge last month.

"It was from the fire department of Mackinaw City," Beck said. "They were essentially billing him for the removal of his corpse. They obviously knew he was dead, I mean, they removed his body from the car."

The itemize bill lists that the $500 charge stems from services provided that include two fire trucks, eight firemen and one rescue truck.

By Tuesday afternoon, Beck's post had more than 14,000 shares. Countless others commented on the picture while sending their condolences to Beck and her family.

"It's very surprising to me that so many people have stepped up and supported me in this," Beck said.

While Beck's being backed by the community, Deputy Chief Kevin Sehlmeyer with the Grand Rapids Fire Department said a recovery fee isn't out of the ordinary.

bill2"This cost recovery has become a way that fire departments take care of things in Michigan," Sehlmeyer said. "It's pretty common. In this case I understand why the family is not happy about receiving this bill but it is in fact a way for fire deaprtments to get revenue so they can continue to provide services."

In Grand Rapids, Selmeyer said the fire department also has various service fees. However, if someone is killed in a crash, he said the bill is tossed out.

While Sehlmeyer couldn't speak to the issue as to why a bill was sent to Beck's late father he said it's likely to have been some type of error.

"A lot of them [fire departments] bill the insurance companies directly, so then it's case of going to the insurance company," Beck said.  "It sounds like in this case the bill went directly to the family and I understand it's a time of grieving and it's an emotional time for a family and then to get this bill on top of it....I think the responders up north are doing a great job at trying to provide a service to the community."

FOX 17 reached out to the Mackinaw City Fire Department about the bill but didn't hear back by Tuesday night.

Beck said she wants her story to be a lesson to fire departments across the state to make sure this doesn't happen to other grieving families.

"I understand when the fire departments need to be paid," Beck said. "They're very small departments...they don't get a lot of tax dollars. I just believe that they need to go about collecting the money in a different way."

Beck said she's talked with a lawyer about the bill who advised her that she and her family won't be responsible for it since it's not addressed to them.

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  • chadmichels

    “A way to continue to provide services”.

    Carl was my friend. And I was very surprised at this. I am even more surprised at the above statement. It’s as if the municipal governments expect us to pay twice. These are what Carl’s tax dollars are supposed to be being used for. Fire departments provide emergency services at the behest of the citizenry. We have already paid! These things should be factored into the fire department budget. Not billed to the taxpayers a second time.

    • Fat Puppy

      Your taxes pay to have those services available. It is a form of insurance.

      When you use those services – you should be charged, or do you think you are entitled to have the fire or police department respond to you house everyday and not get charged.

      That is what your insurance does. You file a claim, your rates get raised because you used the service

      • chadmichels

        So you are saying that a police force and a fire department are insurance? I reject this. The fire department budget mearly supports its existence and not is operational expenditures? Ridiculous. That is not how an ordered society functions.

        You get an ambulance bill, or the medical chopper bill. Those services are typically a third party private company that serves a large area. I can accept that. But to send a bill for services that are explicitly covered by your tax dollars is ludicrous. And the simple fact that the Fire Cheif Association has not come out and said these types of bills are ok or not ok speaks to a certain level of corruption. How long before we are billed for every service for its full cost?

        If the fire department were a private company I wouldn’t be complaing about the bill, because they aren’t funded by my taxes already! We’ve already paid!

    • Andrew

      Taxes do cover services like this. Unfortunately, if the area of response is deemed county, city taxes do not cover it. Rural Fire Departments do not receive City Taxes and have to supplent income to purchase equipment and to train personnel. Also, volunteer departments, not having a full time staff, usually have to rely on a city clerk to submit that billing. The clerk should have filed this bill based on the owner of vehicle’s information, not knowing the severity or the outcome of the accident. That information should have been relayed by the department, but may have been unknown by that agency as it is EMS/coroner that would make that determination.

  • Monkeybiz

    The taxes argument: Think of it like this. You pay a premium for your insurance, right? If you need to ‘use’ your insurance you pay a deductible.. The Fire Department is your insurance. Your taxes are your premium. If you ‘use’ that insurance, you pay the deductible. If you look at your homowners (and some auto) policies, there is a coverage line for Fire Department services.

    Some departments don’t bill their residents but they may bill non-residents.. They are using a service their tax dollars aren’t paying a premium for. The people essentially have a zero deductable on their glass breakage…Follow the line of logic here?