June 27, 2013

Body of Superstorm Sandy victim lay undetected for months

Nobody thought to look inside the tiny construction trailer rusting away on the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens.

The Associated Press

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A dilapidated trailer sits up on blocks in a trash strewn lot in the Queens borough of New York recently. More than five month after Superstorm Sandy, the partially skeletonized remains of 62-year-old Keith Lancaster were found inside on April 5, 2013.

AP

The company that owns the plot, the Master Sheet Co., hasn't paid any property taxes on the parcel for years, according to city records, and it wasn't clear whether anyone associated with the business was aware someone was living on the property. A lawyer for the owners, Robert Rosenblatt, said Wednesday that he wasn't immediately able to reach his clients.

New York City's Office of Emergency Management spokesman Christopher Miller said that search and rescue teams searched 30,000 homes in areas hit by the storm, but hadn't entered the trailer.

"As nobody had reported the deceased missing and we had no reason to believe that someone had been (illegally) residing in the trailer, we did not seek access to the structure," he said in an email.

The lot where Lancaster died remained filled with junk this week, including an old office chair, plastic crates and bottles and stuffed animals. The trailer — barely big enough to stand in — is itself filled with trash.

Vaughan said that when her family returned home, she wondered what had become of Lancaster, but never suspected that he had been killed or that his body was in the trailer, which sits on cinder blocks just a few feet from her home.

"He was like a fixture of the community. We were wondering what happened to him," said Vaughan. "We would've taken him with us."

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