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For unclaimed bodies, cremation awaits at the end of a lonely road

Edward Allen Weber, 63, who lived in this mobile home, was killed in a crash while riding his bicycle Nov. 16. The Hillsborough Medical Examiner’s Office will have his body cremated today.

STEPHEN J. CODDINGTON | Times

Edward Allen Weber, 63, who lived in this mobile home, was killed in a crash while riding his bicycle Nov. 16. The Hillsborough Medical Examiner’s Office will have his body cremated today.

TAMPA — A 63-year-old bicyclist died more than a month ago when a Jeep Cherokee hit the back of his bike while he was riding along U.S. 41.

Wearing no helmet, he died of skull fractures and brain lacerations. There were no street lights and no lights in his bike, and the sun wouldn't rise for another 90 minutes. He wore dark clothes.

All this time, since the Nov. 16 crash, no one claimed his body.

In about the past six months, at least 11 bicyclists have died in collisions in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties. He is the only victim not identified.

The Florida Highway Patrol hasn't officially released his name because it hasn't found relatives to notify. Now, the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office and the highway patrol said they've exhausted their efforts to find someone.

A medical examiner's report lists his name as Edward Allen Weber. His cremation is set for 10 a.m. today at Florida Mortuary Funeral and Cremation Services in Tampa.

A cardboard container will hold the ashes for a minimum of 120 days in accordance with state law, though no one has ever claimed remains at that point, said funeral director Ron Mees.

If Weber's ashes remain unclaimed, someone will throw them into the Gulf of Mexico. No rituals. No minister. No last words.

• • •

But he won't go alone. Unclaimed bodies like his aren't all that unusual.

The Hillsborough Medical Examiner's Office cremates about 600 bodies each year. Many of those come in without information about next of kin, but authorities usually find someone anyway, said Dick Bailey, the medical examiner's office spokesman.

Out of 50 monthly cases, up to five end up like Weber's case, where relatives can't be found or someone can't afford to claim a dead relative or friend.

Hillsborough County covers the costs of cremations for unclaimed bodies. It's $203 for an infant and $426 for an adult.

In an effort to find next of kin, employees talk to neighbors and look for relatives. They call people who have been listed as emergency contacts.

"We even check house mail to see if there's Uncle Bob or something," Bailey said. "We make sure there's a good paper trail so if four years from now next of kin shows up and asks why they weren't contacted, we show them."

Weber's report is four pages.

He was a veteran. He lived alone in a trailer on S 50th Street, less than 2 miles from where he died. Neighbors didn't know him.

Weber was on his way to a VA hospital when the sport utility vehicle hit him about 5 a.m.

His former probation officer in Brevard County couldn't be found. The only identification in his wallet was a VA medical card.

Hillsborough jail records show he was arrested and charged in 2001 for disorderly conduct, carrying a concealed weapon and improper exhibition of a dangerous weapon. He listed an alias, "Boof Head."

His best friend and listed emergency contact, Charles McWhorger, said Weber worked at a carnival and did lawn work. They met about six years ago, worked at a sawmill in Osceola County and were roommates for a while in Palm Bay. They hunted deer and went fishing.

"He was a real nice, kind guy. He helped out a bunch of people," McWhorger said. "Give money to people who need money. Stuff like that."

He liked the Chicago Cubs. He moved around a lot. He didn't discuss his family. McWhorger said he didn't know the names or whereabouts of Weber's two daughters, mother and ex-wife.

Weber rode his bike everywhere, including a trip from Tampa to Ocala, after at least two DUIs stripped him of a license, McWhorger said.

Weber called McWhorger the day before the crash. Weber talked about a recent win by his beloved Orlando Magic, lawn jobs and vacuum cleaners. Mundane stuff.

They talked about the doctor appointment he'd bike to in the morning. It was just a check-up. Weber said he felt fine.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Ileana Morales can be reached at 813-226-3386 or imorales@sptimes.com.

For unclaimed bodies, cremation awaits at the end of a lonely road 12/26/10 [Last modified: Monday, December 27, 2010 7:27am]
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