Playing a little pond hockey is a favorite pastime of folks who live in the more frigid parts of the country, but this might be taking the concept a little too far. An “urban explorer” in Detroit found an abandoned warehouse where the floor had been covered in thick ice, so he invited some of his buddies to come over and play hockey. That frozen dead body buried in ice with its legs sticking up in the air? Just a nuisance, apparently, because everyone decided the free ice time was more important than calling the police.
(photo credit: Max Ortiz/DETROIT NEWS)
I hate to pile on Detroit, but if I were to tell you this story without revealing which city it took place in, would there really be any other answer? Further investigation by the DETROIT NEWS revealed that the body had been in the warehouse for more than a month, and nobody had bothered to alert authorities until an anonymous friend of the hockey players called NEWS reporter Charlie LeDuff.
The warehouse in southwestern Detroit has been in decay since a fire gutted it in 1987. LeDuff describes the scene he discovered in an open elevator shaft when he went to see if the tip he was given was true:
Before calling the police, this reporter went to check on the tip, skeptical of a hoax. Sure enough, in the well of the cargo elevator, two feet jutted out above the ice. Closer inspection revealed that the rest of the body was encased in 2-3 feet of ice, the body prostrate, suspended into the ice like a porpoising walrus.
The hem of a beige jacket could be made out, as could the cuffs of blue jeans. The socks were relatively clean and white. The left shoe was worn at the heel but carried fresh laces. Adding to the macabre and incongruous scene was a pillow that gently propped up the left foot of the corpse. It looked almost peaceful.
Homeless men who squat in the warehouse say they’d seen the body there, but hadn’t bothered to call police because they figured someone else had. One man, Scott Ruben, said other gawkers had been in the warehouse:
“There’s lots of people coming through here with cameras and cell phones. I don’t got no phone. I don’t got no quarter. Things is tight around here.”
His shack mate, Kenneth Williams, 47, returned at that point with an armload of wood.
“Yeah, he’s been down there since last month at least.”
He was asked if he called the police.
“No, I thought it was a dummy myself,” he said unconvincingly. Besides, Williams said, there were more pressing issues like keeping warm and finding something to eat.
I don’t blame the homeless guys for their inaction, as they have bigger things to worry about. But for the hockey players who felt it was OK to skate around with a dead man 20 feet away, that’s pretty unforgivable. Same for those who chose to stop by and snap a few photos.
Even worse, it took multiple calls to 911 by LeDuff and more than a day to get the police to arrive at the scene to begin exhuming the body from its icy tomb.
It’s a sad reminder of how disposable human life can seem in perhaps the harshest inner-city environment in this country.