Family holds home cremation

A Southland man has been cremated by his family in a huge fire on his brother's farm.

Sergeant John De Lury, of Invercargill, said Chris Ramage, a former jockey and current harness racing driver, helped to cremate his brother John before Christmas.

The fire on Chris Ramage's Nightcaps farm was huge and had burned for two days, De Lury said.

There was very little left of Ramage's brother after the fire.

Chris Ramage was not the person who instigated the home cremation, De Lury said. "It wasn't [Chris'] idea and I think he is having nightmares about it."

John's son had organised the home cremation, he said.

"He wanted to cremate his father and he wanted to be present when it happened. The crematorium people weren't going to let that happen – so he did it himself."

Chris Ramage declined to comment yesterday, other than to say: "The brother wanted the job done and we done it."

John had died of natural causes in Southland Hospital before Christmas, De Lury said.

"They took him out to the farm and had a monstrous fire and burned him – we are satisfied they had a fire sufficient to burn him.

"It's been investigated by a local constable and that's the end of it as far as we are concerned."

It was legal to cremate people in places other than a crematorium, with religious sects known to do so. However, a certificate was required, De Lury said.

"When someone does it [cremation] there's a paperwork trail. This guy didn't have the paperwork and he got a warning for that.

"It is my understanding that if he had asked for a certificate he would have got it."

Health Ministry's environment health manager Sally Gilbert said people could cremate at their homes with the approval of the medical officer of health in their local District Health Board.

"They'll look at what the proposal is and make sure that any public health risks are managed. If you get the approval, you don't need to do the cremation in a cremation facility," she said.

"You may need a resource consent though, depending on the local district plan."

Gilbert said the certificate added some flexibility for people, particularly those of Buddhist and Hindu cultures who have their own methods of cremation.

Cases similar to that of Chris Ramage were uncommon, she said.

"Funeral directors will normally try and work to meet with families need. They understand about grieving families."

The Southland Times