Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove Remembers Hurricane Katrina

Two hundred and thirty one: that’s the number of people killed in Mississippi during Hurricane Katrina and one man was put in charge of it all.
Gary Hargrove has been Harrison County’s coroner since 1996. When Hurricane Katrina swept the Coast, he still had to do his job, but on a larger scale and out of a tent. “You got to remember, you are dealing with a disaster so you’re making do with what you got. We had already set up one time and then had to tear it down and move into that tent and they don’t come in sections. So, what we did was section it off with PVC pipes and tarps,” said Hargrove.
Hargrove was put in charge of six southern counties during the storm, focusing mainly on those who needed help the most: Hancock and Harrison. Between the two counties, Hargrove and his team recovered and identified 153 bodies and brought closure to families. Hargrove said, “It’s tough and the reason it’s so tough is that you’re having to cover two large areas of land and a lot of citizens in both communities wanting answers.”
Not only did Hargrove have to take care of the hundreds of deceased victims of the storm but also the dozens of caskets and bodies that washed up along Highway 90 in front of Southern Memorial Cemetery. “We found them in different areas,” said Hargrove, “and then we recovered those damaged mausoleums. We re-casketed each one and put them back into the cemeteries.”
The Mississippi Mortuary Response Team was formed as a result of all the hard work of Hargrove and his crew during such a tragic time. Since the state response team began, it has already responded to two state disasters. In the case of another Katrina, they will be even more prepared.
Hargrove tells News 25 he hopes people can learn from Katrina and listen to government officials when they call for an evacuation.

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