Four hundred local, state and federal workers are deployed for the investigation and re-covery, state officials said Wednesday, Feb. 20.
Psychologist Lin Robertson is one of a team of American Red Cross grief counselors pulled from the greater Chattanooga area to assist victims. Red Cross counselors have oper-ated out of the Walker County Civic Center since Sunday when dozens of families converged there seeking consolation and answers.
“Some of these folks had just had services for their loved ones in the past few months,” Robertson said. Their rage over the lack of respect shown their loved ones has compounded the anger they were already experiencing as a normal step in the grieving process, he said.
Several victims have questioned whether the contents of their urns are the remains of their deceased loved ones. Forensic investigators determined the “ashes” in several urns they analyzed are not human remains, and some have turned out to be concrete mix.
Robertson said several families expressed anger when crematory operator Ray Brent Marsh was released Sunday, Feb. 17, on $25,000 bond. Marsh has since been rearrested and is being held without bond in the Walker County jail.
Red Cross volunteers routinely assist families who have been burned out of their apartments, but Robertson has never worked a crisis involving as many people as this one, he said.
Red Cross counselors plan to remain in Walker County for the duration of the investigation, he said.
Gov. Roy Barnes declared a state of emergency Saturday, Feb. 16, in Walker County after the uncremated bodies were found near the crematory. The declaration permits state re-sources to be used on property not owned by the state of Georgia.
State employees are operating a toll-free Family Information Line, 1-888-887-1845, daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Representatives from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), the Gover-nor's Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA), the State Board of Pardons and Paroles and the De-partment of Public Health will remain on hand to direct inquiries to the proper agencies and to take information regarding deceased family members who have confirmed their loved ones' remains were sent to Tri-State Crematory, according to GEMA.
Eight OCA employees were answering calls on Sunday at Walker’s Emergency 911 center, where state workers continue to man the telephones. Emergency 911 dispatchers, who ini-tially answered the calls, are now directing concerned families to the toll free number, a Walker 911 spokesman said.
GEMA has also posted an information form that can be submitted electronically on its website at www.gema.state.ga.us.
We have been overwhelmed by the gracious and generous offers of assistance that are flooding into our office," said Walker Emergency Management Agency Director David Ash-burn. The state and GEMA “have come in with open arms” and offered to furnish what re-sources local agencies need, he said.
"As we identify specific areas where assistance is needed, we will make sure that the public is informed," he said.
While the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Walker Sheriff’s Department oversee the investigation, Ashburn is charged with coordinating the logistics of the massive operation. The emergency operations center currently has sufficient volunteers and materials