A burial in his beloved sea was the wish of Daniel Scott Lasky, who died last week at his home in Hickory, N.C.
But his family's efforts to comply with that wish led to a fisherman's startling discovery and sent homicide investigators scrambling to solve the mystery of a body at sea.
Lasky, a 48-year-old grocery worker, died of Lou Gehrig's disease on Sept. 8. The next day his family packed his body in dry ice, loaded it into a van and drove to Fort Lauderdale, where Lasky once vacationed. After stopping overnight in Daytona Beach, the family and Lasky's remains arrived in Fort Lauderdale on Friday.
They chartered a local fishing boat, the Mary B III, and Lasky's widow, Sharon, her pastor and other family members, along with the boat's captain and crew, motored four miles offshore from Port Everglades. They tendered their final goodbyes and consigned Lasky to the deep. Family members then fished for a spell in his memory.
"Clearly what they were doing was trying to honor the wishes of their loved one," said Veda Coleman-Wright, spokeswoman for the Broward Sheriff's Office.
But the sea proved no resting place. Though weighted down, Lasky's body resurfaced Saturday. About 9:30 that morning, a fisherman reported a man's body floating about four miles offshore. Its wrappings had come undone. Sheriff's marine deputies raced to the scene, along with the Coast Guard. Homicide detectives waited onshore.
Investigators later found Lasky's intended resting place in his obituary in the Hickory Daily Record: "Burial will be at sea."
Coleman-Wright said Sharon Lasky had a proper death certificate and permit to transport her husband's body. She arranged the sea burial while in North Carolina.
"She did consult with a company up there where she lived and it was subcontracted with the company down here," she said. "The burial would have been successful if Lasky's body hadn't floated back to the surface."
Sheriff's deputies are conferring with the Coast Guard in deciding whether any laws were broken.
Lasky's body was taken to the Broward County Medical Examiner's Office, awaiting the family's wishes. The family has returned to North Carolina. They could not be reached for comment.
While ashes often are scattered at sea, full-body burials are uncommon and highly regulated. State and federal protocols demand the body be in a coffin of noncorrosive metal that weighs four times the individual's body weight, said Gary Collins, burial at sea coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency's southeastern district in Atlanta.
The coffin also must be secured top, bottom and lengthwise. "We recommend they use stainless steel chains," Collins said. "The idea is to make sure it keeps that casket closed … This has happened before, where the lids pop open."
The coffin also must have at least six 2-inch holes drilled in its lid and base. It can be sunk no closer than three miles from shore in international waters of at least 600 feet. Because of a casket's weight, burials at sea typically require a crane-equipped boat.
Collins said his office usually handles three to four sea burials a year, most off the shores of Florida or North Carolina, whose Outer Banks are a popular area.
The Coast Guard is consulting with the EPA's regional administrator in the Lasky case, Collins said. He couldn't immediately say if any burial regulations were violated.