LOS ANGELES – Crypts at the Los Angeles County coroner’s office are so crowded that bodies are stacked in hallways and corpses in murder cases may get contaminated, employees said Tuesday in calling for construction of a new annex. Nearly a dozen employees held a news conference to complain of conditions that, they said, force them to place wrapped bodies in hallways or stack them two or three at a time on gurneys for up to a day at a time to make room. “Mass bodies, that’s what it is,” said Fidel Fernandez, 31, of Whittier, a forensic attendant who transports bodies. “You have bodies on the floor, you have bodies on pallets, you got bodies outside \ refrigerated vans, you got bodies that get drug on the floor, you got bodies stacked on top of other people.” Bodies of homicide victims sometimes are placed with others, which might allow “cross-contamination” of hair, skin or other evidence that might be crucial in court, Fernandez said. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinalsThe bodies are wrapped in sheets and plastic but “parts are exposed,” he said. Coroner’s Capt. Ed Winter said he had not heard of any cross-contamination and urged employees to report it. “They’re the guys who are handling the bodies,” he said. He agreed, however, that the crypts have been overcrowded. A coroner’s statement on Friday said the highest tally of 447 bodies was reached a few months ago. Officials attributed the volume to population growth, illegal immigration, familial estrangement that prevents fast identification of bodies, and poverty. “More stored bodies create a myriad of problems” and “compels workers to `stack bodies,”‘ the statement said. It said the office was entering into an agreement to have an outside contractor begin cremating unclaimed bodies. Coroner’s crypts were supposed to hold about 325 bodies but as of Sunday there were 419, Deputy Coroner Gregory Myers said Tuesday. At the news conference, workers held union signs saying “Respect the dead. Protect the living.” Their contract with the county expires at the end of September but Myers said the event was unrelated to contract talks. The employees displayed Myers’ snapshots of wrapped bodies stacked three to a gurney but Winter removed them before the news conference, saying they were coroner’s property and showing them violated state code. In recent weeks, employees have released a videotape showing maggot-infested corpses. However, Myers said Tuesday that maggots are an occupational hazard when it comes to handling decomposing bodies. Myers acknowledged that county officials and the state’s worker safety agency looked into the problems and found “no violations, no citation, no problem.” However, Myers called conditions “atrocious” and said employees are hoping public pressure will motivate authorities to finally build a refrigerated annex to hold more corpses.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!