Fire Chief Charged With Mishandling Remains of Crash Victim

A fire chief in upstate New York has been charged criminally in connection with obtaining human remains to use to train a cadaver dog. Also charged in the case is the county coroner who allegedly gave him the remains.

Fire Chief Vincent Salerno, 50, of the Cambria Volunteer Fire Company, and Russell Jackman, 45, the Fourth District County Coroner, are scheduled to be in court tomorrow in Cambria to answer to a misdemeanor charge of obstructing governmental administration by mishandling human remains.

Mishandling of remains leads to charges:

The remains in question came from the victim of a fatal car crash on Route 31 on April 13, 2012. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene, and both Chief Salerno and Jackman responded. A few days later, there was another a second fatal accident in the same general area on Route 31. At the second scene, Jackman alleged passed some of the remains of the victim from the first crash to Chief Salerno.

Chief Salerno has a cadaver dog and sought the remains for training purposes. Authorities believe his explanation, but acknowledge the law does not grant exceptions. The case is reminiscent of the great Florida stolen foot caper from 2008, which cost a St. Lucie County Fire District paramedic her career.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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