Mass. college fire prompts quick action to save cadavers
A two-alarm fire at American International College in Springfield left cadavers without constant refrigeration
By Irene Rotondo
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Though there were no reported injuries after a fire broke out at American International College last week, some temporary residents who’d given everything and more to furthering students’ educations needed to be saved.
Springfield firefighters knocked down a 2-alarm fire at American International College in the early evening on July 27. The fire appeared to be caused by a lightning strike at Courniotes Hall.
The electricity to the building and surrounding area had to be shut off and almost all of the nursing program building’s roof was eviscerated with the building left waterlogged. AIC students weren’t impacted — residents have not yet returned for the fall semester.
But it was an issue for some temporary residents: the human donors, or cadavers.
The Lissa building, adjacent to Courniotes Hall, had several cadavers stored and in use at the time of the fire, according to AIC spokesperson Denise Vozella. Though the Lissa building was not affected by the fire, Vozella stated “immediate action” had to be taken to preserve the bodies without electricity as they require constant refrigeration to pause decomposition.
The president of Forastiere Family Funeral Home, a local funeral home in East Longmeadow, said he was contacted by the school for help right after the fire. His team, including his daughter Loren Forastiere, came right to the school the next morning.
“When we received the call, there was no question that time was of the essence and that they needed help. We responded as quickly and as efficiently as we possibly could,” said Frank Forastiere, who has held his state license in funeral homes for 54 years. His family funeral home has been in operation since 1905.
The funeral home director said he and his team wanted to ensure “these people who had donated their bodies to science to further the education of people were handled respectfully and appropriately,” and in the “proper manner.”
“So that’s what we did, and are doing, and we’re just glad to be able to help,” Forastiere said. The team removed the cadavers from the college in a “respectful” and “responsible” manner, Vozella stated, and brought them to the East Longmeadow’s funeral home for proper refrigeration.
The college stated its cadavers were “transported ethically and with great sensitivity,” according to Vozella, and is grateful to the funeral home for its “immediate action” and respectful, “responsible” removal of the bodies.
Forastiere said he and his daughter come from a line of AIC alumni; both had attended the college, along with Frank’s brother and a sister, their father, and their grandfather.
He stated that AIC was “close” to the family and it was special for him to help the college, and his team “would always help somebody in an emergency,” and are not looking for recognition for any good deeds.
As of August 2, the Forastiere Family Funeral Home still has custody of AIC’s cadavers in their fridges, and the president stated he was happy to continue to help as officials are unsure what the future may hold for the human donors at this time.