LEWISTON — The nearly four-hour death scene involving a woman on Lisbon Street early Monday morning has city officials and emergency responders contemplating what they might do to more quickly move a dead person’s body from a public place.

Lewiston’s fire and police chiefs said Tuesday they were reviewing various protocols and discussing with the local emergency medical services what they may do differently to avoid leaving a body, even when covered, in a public area for an extended length of time.

Meanwhile, residents were interacting on social media and expressing their concerns in letters to the editor about why the body of 53-year-old Christine Beaulieu was left on Lisbon Street for nearly four hours, covered by a white sheet, while traffic was detoured around the fatal pedestrian accident.

“The body should be removed from the scene as soon as they know it is not a crime scene,” wrote one commenter on the Sun Journal’s Facebook page.

“If this was my loved one, I’d have lost my marbles on whoever was responsible,” another wrote.

Lewiston Fire Chief Paul LeClair said he understood the outrage and that city officials were already reviewing the situation with an eye toward improvement.

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“I can see how having the deceased in the street, covered by a sheet, would certainly raise some concerns or some ire or some awe,” LeClair said. “I can appreciate that. No. 1, it’s devastating to see someone die or to see someone pass away. Death is not something that, unless you deal with it every day, you ever grow accustomed to, and even if you deal with it every day you never get comfortable with it.”

Lewiston Police Chief Michael Bussiere said he and LeClair were already discussing the situation, but noted that a change in Maine Emergency Medical Service protocols prevents ambulance paramedics and EMTs from transporting a person who is obviously dead.

Police said Beaulieu died instantly at the scene.

Bussiere said city officials were informally working to find ways to more quickly protect a dead person’s dignity, but it wasn’t an indication that any rescue, police or fire personnel did anything wrong.

In 2012, Jay Bradshaw, then-director of Maine’s Emergency Medical Services, told the Sun Journal the protocol to not transport those who were obviously deceased was not so rigid that it would lead to bodies being left in public.

“I’ve heard people say, ‘Do you want them left in the frozen food section at Hannaford’s?'” Bradshaw said at the time. “Absolutely not. It’s not quite as black and white as that.”

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Bussiere and LeClair said they would discuss the Lisbon Street fatality with officials at United Ambulance Service and would review how to improve their ability to more quickly remove a body from the public’s view.

“There is a lot of confluence of actions that go into these types of things and obviously, we are very sensitive to the fact that in a situation like that, it’s very high profile and in a public place,” Bussiere said. “We clearly have concerns as well.”

While police and firefighters eventually did move their vehicles in an attempt to shield Beaulieu’s body, and police officers on the scene did their best to explain the delay, onlookers still gathered, some taking photographs and videos with mobile phones as police continued their investigation.

Rep. Michel Lajoie, D-Lewiston, a former fire chief for the city, said those who respond to medical emergencies and traumas are often put in situations in which they have to make difficult judgment calls and will always face some criticism for those choices.

“There’s never an easy answer in situations like this,” Lajoie said. But, he said, he was confident that Bussiere and LeClair, as well as the specific officers and firefighters involved, would be discussing the situation and trying to figure out a better process moving forward.

“They will be trying to better their response and identify any negatives that have happened,” Lajoie said. “It is not going to be an issue that is forgotten, I can guarantee you that.”

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He said if officials identify any flaws in state law or recommend changes that would make it easier to act more quickly to move a body from a public area, he would help them with that at the Legislature.

Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said he wasn’t aware of the specific protocols in place in Lewiston, but leaving a dead body in such a public place for so long is not a common practice across the state. 

Police are required to call the state Medical Examiner’s Office and the local district attorney’s office in cases like the accident on Lisbon Street, but then bodies are generally “removed in an expeditious manner,” he said.

“Obviously,” he said, “every situation is different,” but “bodies are removed from scenes all the time, whether they are out in public or not without next of kin being notified.”

In Beaulieu’s case, in which emergency medical services were not required, emergency officials delayed removal until the family could be notified and a funeral home called to remove her body.

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UPDATE: Medical examiner: Lewiston woman died from accidental blunt force injuries


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