Manitowoc grave site erupts due to flooding


MANITOWOC - A cemetery in Manitowoc County is dealing with the disturbing results of heavy rains over the weekend.

Knollwood Memorial Park in Manitowoc is far from a peaceful resting place for the woman in a grave that erupted due to flooding. Standing water over the weekend prompted the casket, sealed in a cement vault, to rise above ground. Cemetery workers only became aware of the problem when FOX 11 Investigates began taking pictures.

"We were made aware of the problem maybe 10 minutes ago. So as you can see we were over there digging, we stopped that and made this our top priority right now," said Tiffany Butzen, grounds superintendent for the company that owns Knollwood Memorial Park.

Butzen did not oversee the burial of the casket back on Feb. 15. It's the resting place of 81-year-old woman from Manitowoc. She was buried next to her husband.

"Obviously, not just this family, but other people are going to be concerned," said Butzen.

Cemetery staff covered the grave site and planned to remove the sealed vault until the grave can be re-dug.

FOX 11 Investigates left messages for family members, who live out of the area. And cemetery officials also planned to alert them to the situation. And as shocking as the situation is, it's not the first time a vault and casket have erupted. When pressed, cemetery officials admitted it's happened before.

"It's happened one other time, but yeah, it's a rare occasion, but we've just gotten a lot of rainfall," said Marcia Senn, Knollwood administrator.

The cemetery was established in 1958, and adjoining property remains swampland.

FOX 11 Investigates was told by cemetery workers that the cemetery has been prone to flooding in the past. Several years ago the cemetery installed drainage tiles to help alleviate the problem but clearly the rain water has nowhere to go.

"It's a shock and nothing any cemetery wants to see," said Senn.

And yet neighbors of the cemetery who live on higher ground aren't surprised.

"You mentioned even in joking that's probably not where you want to be buried," asked FOX 11 Investigates reporter Mark Leland.

"Oh correct, I would prefer a little higher ground. Put me on the hill under the oak tree, you know," replied cemetery neighbor Erwin Haben.

Knollwood cemetery is licensed with the state, but reporting situations like this is not required under state statute. The state Department of Safety and Professional Services would investigate only if a complaint were filed.